Author's Note from Erkith: Thanks for reading another one-shot. Similar style to my others, but it's a little bit different. This is my first time working with Alanna and George, so please tell me how I can improve...
(Thanks to the reviewers of The Promise is underneath.)
Shall I Drown
'Tis said that the life of a drownin' man flashes before his eyes. Must be some truth in it, for I've seen it in a way. I'm a drowned man. Or perhaps it'd be more accurate to term me "drownin'" as breath still seeps through my abused body.
Still, surely as any victim of water's ways I know the liquid weight that sits in the lungs, and it stops my breath just as surely. I know that seconds pass for minutes 'neath the clear veil. I know the desperation that claws close to madness. Just as I know the weight of the exhausted mind that can't fight back the black oblivion any longer. I know the freeze in the muscles as shock stops any manner of escape. I know the powerlessness that is drownin'.
I know what it's like to drown.
Learned a lot 'bout drownin' of late. May be Tortall's only livin' expert on the subject. Forgive me, but I ain't no scholar, an' those that'd help most be gone afore it be well an' useful to 'em. They'll suffer regardless – as I have suffered.
As I suffer now... in the grip of love.
The Rogue drank deeply from the tankard of ale, but barely tasted it. He was the very picture of a man trying to get just a little drunk. A calm, undisturbed air clung to him as it does to many that find themselves in such a place. But for the hand that slowly traced the patterned scars that marred the old, wooden table, none could have guessed at his nerves, or that he was waiting for something. It was a habit that his thieves knew well – one that set them on edge.
The Rogue only worried those long character lines when something was troubling him, and these days there was precious little that did that. No one approached him. Anyone who valued their ears would stay away tonight.
A draft swept through the haze of smoke and dim lighting that was The Dancing Dove as its doors admitted a man well used to its charms.
He was a fairly plain sort with no particularly distinguishing features. Any attention caught by his entrance was loosed in less than ten seconds. He was a man who went where he pleased because none would remember he'd even been there.
It was for these talents that the Rogue had hired this man. The ability to be forgotten almost instantly was valuable in their line of work.
The Rogue knew the man approached, but he studied his ale. After waiting a moment to brace himself with the silence, he asked. "Well?" He took another deep swallow.
The man made no effort to respond. Surprised, the Rogue raised his eyes. He followed the man's gaze to his hand that still traced the scarred table, and for a moment simply watched it. Then he stilled the movement, wishing he could quench the nerves housed in his gut just as easily. He frowned back into his ale.
As the motion had stilled, the man's attention had been drawn back to his master. He eyed the Rogue warily.
"Well?" the Rogue repeated quietly.
The man took a deep breath. "Your magesty was right. 'Twas indeed the she-cat that prowled our streets..." he trailed off, certain he did not want to continue, but the Rogue was not likely to allow such an omission.
The man studied the Rogue's tired face. There was a resignation that spoke of a great loss and stirred a small well of pity. "And she prowls the castle gardens tonight."
The Rogue's hand tightened around the tankard. It was the only indication that he'd heard the man at all. His eyes remained focussed on the ale in front of him – as if it held some secret that would either tell all or erase what he knew already.
"Is there anything I can do?"
Hazel eyes shut sharply, shuttering the Rogue's pain from view. "No," he said tightly. "No."
'Twas the truth. Was nothin' more that the man, known as the Ghost, could do; though I did appreciate the sentiment. This was something I had to do myself. So I left him there – pockets heavy with gold, but with a frown of concern etched into his forgettable face.
The streets were dark with night. Light spilled into them through the windows of houses and street lamps. I passed through the shadows with a graceful ease – 'tis in my nature. Not a soul moved to stop me. The whispers of footpads tread the other way. They were wise to avoid me, for tanglin' with me would've been their end.
Tonight I was the most deadly of predators.
The palace guard never saw me as I wound around their walls and stations. I was sorely tempted to try my speed 'gainst their strength, and to test my skills 'gainst the challengin' walls I've infiltrated before. But that'd be riskin' too much; I could not afford a chase tonight.
Stefan was awaitin' at the bolthole. 'Parently the Ghost figured I'd take a look myself. The hostler – my agent within the walls – opened it without a word and stepped aside. I doubted that the Ghost had revealed the nature of my mission, but perhaps somethin' showed, for the man's usual cheer was absent.
The garden wrought more shadows than the streets below. Shifting light, born of the silver-touched moon and the wind-blown trees, lit my way down a path I knew well. I sought the garden 'neath her window; where a bench sits aglow with moonlight.
And there she was. She was disguised in feminine clothin' and a black wig that covered her gloriously red hair, but I'd know her anywhere.
Alanna. My friend, my soul, my love, my lioness... and perhaps someday my queen.
No! Never my queen. Not for long. I wouldn't – couldn't – watch her kiss Jon when it should be me. Couldn't bare to have her love him, when I love her more. Couldn't break the laws knowin' she'd made 'em.
No, I'd not live to see her crowned a queen.
I knew that Jon wanted her. He'd a better claim than I. Even ignorin' the power of the throne, which was a grand part of him, he was still a noble, and I wasn't. He was the future King of Tortall. I'm but the King of the Thieves. He could give her whatever she desires. If he wants her, he's got her. And he does...
I watched her. Pacin', she looked lonely, caught in some web of thoughts. Confusion radiated off her as if amplified by her magic. She gazed off into the distance, and I wondered what she sought.
Realisation dawned. My lioness' attention was focussed on the terrace of the ballroom – on Jon. My heart sank, filled with grief, loss, and tears.
In that decisive moment, when I balanced on the edge of a precipice with the fires of hope on one side and the dark, treacherous waters of despair on the other, I saw a shift in the darkness.
Jon stepped into the clearing, and the flickerin' flame of hope was snuffed. I let the waters claim me.
The Rogue stood still, both unable and unwilling to walk away. Emotion – a liquid, weighted anguish, filled his lungs, stopping breath. Though a distanced veil constructed of shock he watched the scene unfold very slowly, reluctantly fascinated by what happened before him. Against the pain battled the seducing numbness of the unconscious – where what he was seeing could not hurt him. He did not even try to fight the cold that froze him to the spot as he watched Jon kiss her. He was powerless, unable to save himself from the grip of the despair that pulled him under.
He was drowning. The knowledge was strangely undisturbing. If you could drown in a tablespoon of water, why couldn't you drown in none?
Perhaps emotion was a kind of water, for it swamped him just as eagerly as he watched the seduction of his lady. Hands caressed her body, smoothing over curves and arches normally concealed. Lips brushed and pressed fervently over hers where the Rogue's had once laid claim.
He remembered seeing her on the road – a red-haired kid who'd captured his heart. He recalled the internal struggle and confusion when he'd realised he was falling in love with Alan, and his relief when he discovered Alanna. He remembered the first kiss on the street with her hands full. And he recalled the other that had nearly gone too far in the library before she'd left. He remembered their laughter and lessons. He remembered everything.
Helpless anger began to build, snapping the tethers of pain. The Rogue turned away, disappearing into the comfort of darkness and trying to hold back the tears.
Author's Note: Ok, that was just way too much fun to write! Lol even though it's rather depressing... is that strange? I like writing one-shots. I really, really do! If you have any ideas for one you'd like to see review and let me know... I'll see if I can come up with one.
If you have any questions or comments or you're just a very nice person : D please review. I'll prally answer reviews in emails or in my next one-shot...
Thanks for reading!
Reviewers of The Promise. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
Wake-Robin: My one-shots are always sad... I've no idea why. The whole idea started with the letter, so I'm glad you enjoyed it!
Keziah: I hope you get to read this since you seem to enjoy this writing style... I'll probably write more of them... any ideas or preferences?
Rach: Thank you!
Girlfromtheshadows: Well I hope you like this one! I'll try to remember to look up the spelling of names next time – I misspelled Lalasa... pitiful. Lol are you ever going to send me something to BETA?
Soccerchick-08: Did I email you an explanation for this confusing (I admit it) fic? If not, let me know, I'd be perfectly happy to explain. Hopefully this one's a little clearer... if not – same goes.
Atlanta Enchanted: lol yes it was rather confusing... is this one clearer?
Trisana: We must never forget to bless our muse. -- that's a beautiful expression. I hope you enjoy this fic just as much.
PsychoLioness: lol if you have any more ideas I'd be happy to write you another fic in the same style again!
Randomisation: lol I love your enthusiastic review! I hope you like this fic too...
Yogi75: I hope you're reading this because I really want to read your story but can't find it... could you email me a link? I'd love to help. Glad you like this style, I hope it's improving...
Marisa1: Thank you for reviewing! Regardless of having a hard time trying to find something to say – it's great that you took the time to let me know you read it!
Pinky: Thank you!
Queen Tigress: tears... a honour. Hope you like this one too...
ArcherorDarkness and Callie: Thanks for reviewing all my fics! I'll try to get them updated for you : D I hope you enjoy this fic!