My Dear, Dear Friend

By: K. Ryan, 2003

Rating: PG for themes

Disclaimer: I may love both Lindhall and Numair, but I've never owned them, or anything else.

"Lindhall, I am telling you, and there's nothing you can do about it."

The air was thick with listening spells, speaking spells, and fear. All around, feet could be heard over jeweled floors, running to answer an Emperor's demands, and birds sang their wild tunes, exquisite and happy in a world made just for them.

A caged world, full of treasures.

Lindhall Reed was looking at one of them. "It's not safe, Arram. You can't afford the risk."

"If I can't trust you, then who is there in this world?"

Lindhall sighed, running a cloth over a turtle's glass home. Outside the windows, it was getting dark, and the red star was coming out, shining weirdly over him and all Carthak. Inside, animal eyes looked at him from their lovingly constructed worlds--glass and scales sparkling from the light globes he and his student had once made, laughing both at their successes and when over-ambitious attempts blew up in their faces, streaking hair and tailored robes with soot.

His student. The light didn't sparkle off Arram Draper--he absorbed it. It was taken in by long, dark hair, by a dreamer's eyes--which were now so tense and shadowed that they were hardly recognisable as the pair known to light up at the sight of beautiful books, girls or displays--and by distinctive, black robes. The best student Lindhall had ever had, and the most dangerous. Those robes told the world what he was, and made the world want him.

Made Ozorne want him.

Made Varice want him.

Made Lindhall want him.

Want him to live.

"I won't be the one that sets the knife falling, my boy."

Arram stared at his teacher, at his friend, and bewilderment joined the tension. "You'd never betray me."

"Everyone is a traitor under torture."

"Lindhall, please. They'd never suspect you--"

"--You don't--"

"--Don't interrupt me this time. This is… important."

Lindhall had to bite is lip to keep from screaming. Are you so detached from the world that you don't understand how to really live in it?"

Arram's voice was soft, thickened with the intrigues and emotions he had to be in and feel. "I need you to know. To know me."

The teacher had to smile. "I've known you, taught you, and often cleaned up after you for years and years, Arram. If I knew you any more intimately people would start to talk." A hint of old laughter appeared in his bright, quick eyes. "A new name doesn't change who you are," he lied.

"Come on, old man. It's a very good name, if I do say so myself. Very mysterious, very magical--"

"--Very grandiose and rather pretentious?"

Arram grinned, blushing a little. "Perhaps."

Lindhall gripped the youth's shoulder, his long, ink-stained fingers reassuring, and silently insisting. "All the better I don't know, then, isn't it?" he smiled, rather sadly. "It would be impossible to forget."

Pulling away, Arram draped himself into the teakwood chair by the window. It was his, and always had been, since he'd first sat there as a ten-year-old, asking his young teacher about the Banjiku, and the copper fire that no one could see. He'd never see the chair again, after tonight. "Is this really going to work?"

"Of course it is, if you've got your wits and as much talent in you now as you had yesterday."

Arram groaned, putting his head in his hands. "Be serious."

"I am, friend. I am. I have complete faith in you."

The student blushed again, lowering his eyes. "I'm scared, Lindhall."

"You? Scared? Never thought I'd see the day. Are you sure I'm saying goodbye to the right Arram?" Lindhall walked over to the chair, face kind. "Of course you are," he whispered.

They spoke for a long time, student and teacher. Arram fed the turtles. Lindhall tried to wade his way through paperwork.

And then the time came for the moment, for their way of life, to end.

The student stood in the doorway, and tried to smile.

"It's Numair Salmalìn, Lindhall. I'm telling you this, as a friend."

The door closed, and the red star shone, bright and feral, in the sky.