You always hurt . . .

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((Mild adult situations, language.))

It is hot. My head is pounding and I need a drink. I kick off the blanket that covers me and feel slightly cooler air on my skin. This is not my large luxurious bed. It is small and the mattress is too firm and thin. My head really hurts. My mouth tastes like bile. I struggle to open my eyes. The light hurts. It feels like mid morning.

Where am I?

I sit up. My head pounds even harder. I look around, blinking my eyes over and over to get used to the light. This is nothing like Visant's place. It is poorly furnished and small, with unpainted wooden walls and old mismatched furniture.

Of course it is not Visant's place. A rushing fills my ears. Our conversation last night. He needed me and I left.

I am nauseous. Where am I? I am naked and in a strange house and do not know why. This has not happened in almost a year.

The bedroom doorway is closed off from the rest of the house by a faded yellow curtain. It rustles and Marren Skybright comes in. He is fully dressed and his brown hair is short now. He smiles at me. Why is he wearing spectacles? That reminds me of being in Booty Bay with Visant, trying to see the statue from the docks. "I was about to make lunch and wanted to know what you would like to eat."

I swallow and try to get moisture into my mouth. "What am I doing here?" I have not seen Marren since his master nearly caved my skull in.

He lingers in the doorway. He looks shorter than I remember. "We met in the street last night. I took you home but you passed out so I left you alone." I look down at my naked skin. Marren clears his throat and does not explain. I do not care anyway.

"What about Emettior?" There is a glass of water on the bedside table, but a tall candle which has gone out. I reach for it and drink.

"I have a restraining order against him. He was dismissed from his post. I have been experimenting since."

The water is lukewarm. My mouth and throat feel better but the headache and nausea are almost unbearable. I put the glass back.

Marren walks over and sits on the bed next to me, drawing one leg up underneath him. "I never apologized to you. He told me he taught you a lesson but did not say what it was."

"A concussion." My head feels like it is concussed all over again. I rub it roughly. Let it throb. "The priest I saw made me pay to get healed and joked about brain damage." Fucking priests. Thinking about Emettior reminds me of when I mentioned to Visant an encounter I had with a night elf, and how shocked Visant was on my behalf. I did not understand why it was such a big deal. And after sharing his heart with me, what did I do?

"I thought you hated me for it so I avoided you. I am sorry, Thenyit." Marren touches my shoulder.

"Do not call me that." I am not going to tell him my new name though. "Never mind, I do not care. I feel like throwing up."

Marren moves away quickly and leaves the room. I look around the room searching for clothing. All my armor is folded neatly onto a wooden armchair. I slide off the bed. The room spins a little. Two steps and I am at the armchair, picking up my tunic.

"Here." I turn and see Marren coming to me with a bucket.

I laugh. It makes me wince. "Put that down." He does and keeps his eyes on me. I unfold my tunic and look at it. Visant told me it looks good on me. Am I going to see him again after abandoning him like that? Or is this when I leave him and find someone else until we get too close or I make a mistake and leave? I feel sick.

"I was looking at your armor. And your staff. They look powerful. You are out making the world a better place now." I look at Marren. He is smiling stupidly. "I'd like to hear about your adventures."

If I go back he is going to want to know why I left. That will not do. That is a box whose lid I must keep sealed shut. I slip the tunic on over my head and push my arms through the sleeves. "Marren . . . When you made Emett angry, how did you make it up to him?"

Marren reads it off like a shopping list. "Crawl to his feet crying and confessing what I had done and what a horrible, useless churl I was, praise his looks, mind, and sexual prowess and how I could not exist without it, and beg for punishment and that he would not abandon me. Offer him my lifetime of unwavering service and then get flogged blind."

"I always found it easier to leave." Like when I ruined the portrait of Dashelot and his stupid lover, and broke his cabinet stole the mana potions. "And not look back." I pull on my shorts.

"I am not independent like you are."

I finish dressing in silence. Marren watches me patiently. I am fastening my cape on and I see I have knocked my rings onto the floor. The rings Visant not only gave me, but handcrafted for me.

When I was naked a few minutes ago I felt like the same Stillwater boy I used to be. Now in all my armor I feel like the Nex'Cruor I claim to be. The Stillwater way is to hide and bury and ignore. Nex'Cruors scheme and conquer and make things work. I need to get my act together if I want to be worthy of the name I slapped onto my records as if I deserved it.

My Staff of Dar'Orahil is leaning against the wall. I pick it up.

"Let me help you with that." Marren is behind me and helps fasten the staff in its holster on my back. He rests his hands on my shoulders. "Those rings on the floor are yours. I could never afford them."

"Mm." I sway and feel I might throw up after all. I wish I could remember last night.

Marren kneels and picks them up for me. I hold out my hand and he drops them into my palm. They tinkle against each other. One is golden and the other covered in small gems. I slip them on and feel the power flowing from them to me.

Then he tilts my chin up and kisses me softly on the lips, pressing a slip of paper into my hand. I do not kiss back. "Come see me soon," he says. "When you are sober."

"Have you been drinking?" I nod. "I might." Marren takes my hand and walks me out of his bedroom and through a narrow hall to his front door. I walk away without returning his farewell. The paper in my hand is his address. I walk down the street and when I turn the corner I tear the paper into pieces and let the breeze carry it away.

I summon my felsteed there on the cobblestones. It appears in a cloud of sulfur smoke, its fiery hooves so hot the stones underfoot glow red. I pull myself onto its hot back and make my way to the nearest mailbox, keeping the pace a slow trot and forming a letter of apology in my head.

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((Very nice, it is interesting to see the conversation from Izrail’s point of view. I’m wondering what exactly he was up to during those missing hours now… ))

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