"And Miles to Go" by Karen
'How long do I have before Haplo is on to me is anyone's guess at this poinr. After all, under the circumstances we will have to pool their resources if we hope to escape from the Low Realm alive.'
'If one of my old friends among the Sartans could see me now.'
Alfred's own reflected image stared back at him from the metal surface of the underground world of the Kicksey-Winsey.
The image appeared bedraggled and dehydrated and somewhat shocked to have its life rely on an assassin, a clairvoyant prince from the Mid-Realm, an idealistic dwarf, and one of the Patryns, the ancestral enemy.
Well, if his old friends and acquaintances among the long-vanished Sartan could have seen him now, they would have laughed at the impossible absurdity of it all.
It was absurd, however there was little to be done about the situation except ride it out.
In odd way, suddenly the metaphorical weight of the world resting on his slumped shoulders suddenly lightened a fractional bit.
Alfred stood up and walked over to where Limbeck and his girlfriend Jarre were seriously and quite intently trying to teach the words of the song that they were planning to use against the haughty Elven soldiers army in order to escape and gain access to their air-ship.
As he darted a nervous glance over to where Haplo lounged at ease, which made Alfred suddenly realize that the man could never truly be at ease, not completely.
Too much had happened, too much time had been spent honing the instinct for survival at all costs to ever truly allow himself to relax that studied hyper alertness.
Judging by the tautness around the narrow mouth and thin lips, and the wariness in the dark eyes, to allow Haplo to really let go. That was abundantly clear.
The fleeting eye contact with Haplo, even as he bent down to ruffle the silky ears of his dog, was unsettling for Alfred, so he tore his gaze away and tried to focus on what to do next.
Concentrating on studying the Patryn and contemplating his own situation, of course Alfred forgot all about watching where he placed his over-sized feet and consequently he tripped over the Dog's brushy tail. He staggered, his arms wind milled and he landed in a heap on the shifting deck with a yelp and a thud.
The dog looked up and Alfred could have sworn that he read both mingled reproach and amusement in those liquid and quite intelligent eyes. Alfred slumped his shoulders and muttered a quick apology before sorting himself out and trying to find a more comfortable seat in the corner.
Alfred is struck by a thought about ten seconds after his bony rump struck the deck; a phrase floats to the surface of his mind from one of the many old books he read while still in the service to Prince Bane's parents: 'and miles to go before I sleep.'
The context of that phrase is lost in the hazy corridors of his memory, and Alfred does not really care to try and clarify it, it is the general meaning of it that is important.
Alfred generally considered himself an unassuming mild-mannered, and perhaps even a meek man; however, in he allowed himself a rare flash of anger, that it was both unfair and ill-considered for fate to have asked to place him in this position.
All these years he had made the conscious decision to try and hide who he really was, one of the last remaining living Sartan, because he had been deathly afraid of what people would do to him, or ask him to do for them should they ever discover the true nature of his magical powers.
Now, the presence of a living Patryn, the ancient enemy, forced Alfred to confront all of this tangled emotions and decisions once more.
As miserable and as trapped as he might feel, Alfred, cannot help but realize that that he does have other responsibilities:
The Geg, pardon, the dwarf Limbeck, having never set foot outside of the Low Realm, is having a great deal of difficulty adjusting to the atmosphere in the Mid Realm.
Alfred figured that he can see to it that Limbeck is looked after, perhaps that is the best that he can do, under the circumstances. "My friend," Alfred whispered to the fitfully sleeping Limbeck, ⌠I never wanted any of this, but I will endeavor to do my best to not muck it up any worse than I already have. I promise you that."