A/N: Okay, I'll repeat myself. Rekindled and Death's Due are both COMPLETELY different from each other. What I mean is that the characters from both will be different. I'm trying to make Dante a bit more serious as well as shed more light on what I originally wanted him to be. Though how he became such a jovial and playful hottie in Rekindled, I don't know. I didn't mean for it to happen. But it just did. I can't help myself. Anyway, in Death's Due, Dante is a bit more grown up, so to speak. More mysterious… lol. Strong silent type. Oh well. Maybe I'll make him more amusing later. But for now, read Death's Due and tell me what you think.
Chapter Four: Plague
Title: Death's Due
Northwestern border of Tyra to Tortall
Carik the innkeeper slowly brushed the dust off his courtyard with his broom, stopping only to cough. His inn was empty and his family huddled inside, fearful of the plague that had swept through the village as well as most of western Tyra. The plague had come unexpectedly; even the great healers and mages of the royal family did not know where it had come from. There was no word of how they should protect themselves and so everybody locked themselves up in their own homes, hoping to wait out the plague as if it were the winter.
He himself knew that there was no way to beat back this new plague; it did not matter whether you were outside or inside, the plague would get you. His wife had pleaded with him to stay inside and his two girls had also cried and begged. And he gently shook them off and said he would first finish the chores before coming back inside. He was skillful enough with his Gift to know how to cleanse himself before he entered back into the inn and thus did not worry. Now, all he could do was hope that the epidemic would not touch his family.
Wind blew up more dust and dirt into the courtyard. He grunted and moved to sweep it out until he saw a figure approach. Carik squinted through the dust. It was a woman, with light blonde hair and plain clothes that was moving toward the inn. She stopped in front of him and he measured her. She was beautiful, that was no doubt and tall. She was topped the innkeeper's own 5'2 by at least two inches and was thin. Her bones showed through her skin clearly and the clothes hung to her body. "Do you have a room available?" she asked in a soft voice. He nodded, a little surprised by her arrival.
He led her into the inn. "How long will ye be staying with the Dancin' Horse?" She looked around the inn before answering.
"You do require payment, correct?"
He raised a brow at her almost educated tone. "Why yes, that would be the custom hereabouts."
"I don't have any form of money."
"Well, then I suppose you can't get a room then." She met his eyes squarely and he was soon captured in their blue depths.
"Would you accept a different form of payment? Manual labor for room and board?" Carik managed to look away from those terrifying eyes.
"Well, since ye seem to be a foreigner, I suppose you haven't noticed that this inn is empty. I don't need any extra help around here."
"If I help keep away this plague, will you allow me a room for a few nights?" His eyes popped open wide and he regarded the woman suspiciously.
"You a healer? 'Cause as far as I'm considered, even the best healers in bloody Tyra don't know how to ward themselves against the plague. And you, a strange woman with no money now has a way to keep it away for only a room and none of that reward the king's offerin' to anybody who can stop it. You think I'm stupid?" He asked, almost livid.
She looked back at him calmly. "Yes. All of what you said was true. I will keep away this plague in exchange for a few nights' rest and some food would be nice."
"How do I know if you'll really keep it away? For all I damn know, I'm gonna be dead the next minute from it."
"You have my word." For some strange utter reason, Carik believed her. And so he allowed her a room. She thanked him politely when he handed her a key and directed her to the room. When he told his wife about the new guest, she exploded.
"Have ye gone daft, Car? How do we know that she ain't gonna slit our throats open in the middle of the night?!" His two girls, Moline and Solana, a mere eight and seven, hid in the corner. Only eight and seven, he thought painfully. Far too young to die. "She ain't. She's promised to keep the disease away. I think she's a healer," he added, though he really did not believe that the woman with the eerie eyes was one.
"Ah, Car, she's a damn foreigner! Ye said so yerself! What were ye thinkin', bringin' in someone who was outside, for the Goddess' sake, she could be carryin' the plague and infected you already!"
He shifted uncomfortably on his feet, but he was resolute on his decision. And nothing, not even his wife, would change his mind. The woman stayed in her room for the entire day and only answered the door to eat the food that he brought to her. The next day, however, she came down to the main room of the inn and sat by a table. By the fireplace, there was a small shelf of books and she took one out, skimming through the pages. She then picked up another and did the same with all of the books. Car watched curiously from a distance and his own daughters hid underneath another table on the other side of the room, watching, as fascinated with the stranger as their father was. She picked the books up and put them back on the shelf before rising from the table and left the inn.
His wife, Anne, did nothing and never even looked at the guest. It wasn't until later after lunch that the stranger returned to the inn. When she arrived, Moline and Solana were picking herbs and vegetables from a small, but well-tended garden. Carik was taking out spare tack out the small barn by the inn. He was sweating, exhausted under the beating sun. Tyra was famous for its hot winters. He nearly dropped a heavy saddle on his foot before it was lifted out of his arms. He looked up to see the strange woman bearing the weight of the saddle easily, despite her seemingly frail frame.
There seemed to be mutual understanding between the two and she carried the saddle to where he wanted it. "What shall I call ye," he asked later after the chore was done.
She hesitated. "Fiona."
"Carik Inners, at yer service, milady," he said, grinning. She frowned slightly. "I am not of noble birth."
"Well, yer speech is like one of high birth, if ye know what I mean," he answered in turn. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw his daughters peeking out from a corner. He beckoned for them and they shyly approached them. "And these be me two girls, Moline, the older one, and Solara. Mind your manners," he said softly. They curtsied awkwardly and looked at the ground, shy.
"They have pretty names. Names to suit the girls." Fiona bent down on one knee and tipped Moline's chin up, examining their faces.
"They have the look of you, Carik Inners."
He puffed up like any proud papa. "Oh, no, it's their mother they take after, not me. And Car is fine." She nodded back and straightened. "Either way, your children will grow up to be fine women." He smiled, pride filling his chest.
"Oh, I know, milady, I know."
And so this was what the next three days would be like: Fiona would help Car with any chores and they would come back to the inn, sweaty and tired. On the second day, Anne cooked their dinner and even invited Fiona to their table when she found that she had helped Moline and Solara with their letters. The scribe they had hired to teach them to read and write had left a month before when the plague first started.
And the plague kept away from the inn of the Dancing Horse.
On the third day, Fiona gave Moline and Solara their first lesson since the scribe had left. They nervously did as Fiona said; writing letters and reciting them to her until Fiona saw that it was enough. As a reward, Fiona gave them a candied chestnut each. Later that night, when they showed their parents what they had learned, both Car and Anne thanked Fiona gratefully, saying how Fiona was a far better teacher and how the scribe was a good for nothing fool.
Fiona waved off their thanks and later that night, once everybody had retired to their rooms, Anne asked her husband, "Who do ye think she is?"
Car shrugged. "Haven't got a clue. All's I got from her was her name. A quiet one."
"She's educated, ye think she could be a runaway lady?" Anne smiled dreamily.
He snorted. "Ye been listening to those romantic tales again. No, can't be a lady. She had no money on her and only plain clothes. And she's mighty strong for a noble, if she were one," Car added, just a bit enviously.
"Ye said that she was a healer."
"Well, I don't actually think she is one. I haven't seen use a Gift and I can't sense any sort of magic on her with me own Gift. And she never said she was a healer or mage either."
"Well, we do know that she's educated like a lady. What other commoner would know so much about letters and the like? None, I say, even that scribe."
Car shrugged. "We should just be grateful that the plague hasn't gotten us. And I don't think she wants us to know who she is. For all we know, she could be the devil."
The next day, Fiona rose early and left the inn, following the main road until she saw a farm. She knocked on the farmer's door and a man answered, obviously scared out of his wits. She asked if he had a horse and that she's trade him the horse for food. He readily agreed, looking at her suspiciously until she gave him what he wanted and left.
The horse was nothing special; a roan mare, healthy and a bit thin. When she arrived with her new charge at the inn, the entire family was up and eating breakfast. They greeted her and she ate with them, feeling a small clutching at her heart. She frowned at this and helped Anne clean up the dishes. Afterwards, she approached Car. "Do you have a map of the entire Eastern Lands?"
He showed her a map a bit old, but in good condition and fairly recent. She looked at it for several minutes, searching for what, he didn't know. Before he could ask, she folded the map up carefully. "May I borrow this?"
"Of course. Whatever for, if I'm not too rude to ask."
"I'm leaving today. I'd like to thank you and your family for the hospitality that you've shown me. Words don't express my gratitude enough," she replied, tucking the map underneath her tunic.
"Oh- well this is a surprise, though I should have been expectin' it. I see why ye got that horse of yours."
"Yes. I'm sorry, but I must leave now. I've delayed for far too long. I need to go." She felt the pain in her heart again and realized what it was. I'm going to miss them, she thought.
"Well, alright. I'll see that you're prepared for yer journey. And as a matter of curiosity, but have ye no family of yer own?" Car asked.
Fiona hesitated. "No. I have no family."
"A pity, bein' how taken we are all for ye." Car nodded and asked her to wait before returning with a spare set of clothes in a travel bag. "Ye probably are gonna be goin' a long way. Anne and the girls wanted ye have to this, seein' that ye haven't got any spares of yer own."
She took the bag, touched. She recognized the clothes as what Anne had been sewing yesterday. "Thank you."
Car helped her saddle her mare and the girls hugged at her legs, crying how they would miss her. Anne took them off her legs and told them to mind their manners and to properly say good-bye to her. They did their awkward curtsy again and said good-bye. Before she left, Car stopped her.
"Where will it be that yer goin'?"
Her blue eyes looked at him. "Corus. The capital of Tortall."
Kel stood upon the turrets of the palace, a day after she had left the Chamber. She had not seen the Marquis since then. Winter's setting in fast, she thought. Far too fast for it to be normal. The bell rang for noon. She took another look to the north, feeling as if something was coming.
And nearly screamed when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She jerked away and turned to see who it was. The Marquis. He looked at her mildly, eyes carefully blank. "You frighten too easily."
If she weren't on the edge of a wall that was over a hundred feet in height, perhaps she wouldn't have been so jumpy. She bit back a retort and steadied herself against the cold stone. "What do you want?"
"The king wishes for your presence before the war council. I am here to escort you to the meeting place."
She glanced at him. "Why would they send such a high-ranking nobleman to get me? Wouldn't they send a servant?"
"They did not send me. I came here because I knew you would be here. The servants would have taken much longer to find you."
"And how did you know I would be here? I could be in a whole number of places, like the practice courts or-"
"I already told you. I know you. I know your needs and your fears. You cannot hide anything from me."
Kel looked at him, angry. "I don't know how you ended up in the Chamber with me, but I don't believe anything that you've said to me. Not a word. You can't be Death. It's not possible. The Black God is Death, and Mithros is justice and so on. If this is some kind of joke-"
"I am not a 'joke' as you put it. I am real as you are and what I have told is all true." In the cold air, the Marquis' eyes seemed to glow an even brighter gold. "It is your choice whether to believe me. And by your own choice, you can decide the fate of this world. I cannot force you into your destiny and you can either accept it or refuse and let all die."
Kel shook her head, backing away from him. "No, I already did what I was supposed to do. I went after Blayce, just like the Chamber told me to and I stopped him. I don't need anymore of this. I don't want it."
"Is that your choice?"
She didn't answer and instead leaned forward on her elbows upon the turret. She looked out toward the south, toward the desert.
"You know what you have to do. And I am sorry for it." He glanced back. "Good luck. I will try to help as much as I can."
A/N: Ok, I just wanted to get this chapter out as fast as I could. So if there are errors and inconsistencies all over the place… I really do not care at the moment. So review and flame me about them later. I'm going to bed.