Hearts and Pistons
Just a Mistake
As I stand in the doorway to Larisa’s study, I instantly sense something is different this evening. Something about her is distant. On any other night, the moment I set foot in her study I would be met with demands, chapters to read, concepts to understand, arcane equations, a philosophical question… anything. Something. Not tonight though, I’m uncertain that she has even noticed my presence yet.
It’s her posture truly, that is telling me something is amiss. For a woman that prides herself on etiquette and demeanor, I have never seen her sit so chaotically. In one of the two large chairs that face the fireplace, she sits horizontally with both her legs and head hanging off different sides. Her very visage is disturbed by a letter she is reading. I know she is a quick reader, there must be something more to this letter.
“Hush child.” She interrupts me the moment I speak, she turns her head towards me. “Your lessons do not involve standing in archways. Take your seat.” Her glance shifts from me back to that letter.
I nod, despite the fact that I know she is no longer watching me. Slinging my knapsack of arcane tomes over my shoulder, I walk over to the empty chair. The roaring fire warms the seat and makes the cushion that more delightful to sit upon. While uncertain of the material of these chairs, they have to be the finest in all of the Hegemony. The backs have to be five feet high alone. With no doubt in my mind they are designed for halflings, any human could find comfort in one of these.
Still without instruction, I start to wonder if this is a test or one of her games. Does she expect something from me? Was there something I forgot? Is there something I should be doing? The fact that I can never be certain with her concerns me. I begin to take out the books I was studying from yesterday at this time.
With a sigh, Larisa lets her head hang off the side facing me. Though her eyes are closed, every other feature on her face portrays her frustration. I do hope it is with the letter and not with me. Her eyes open and lock upon me, I turn my head towards her. She hands the letter to me, “Can you make any sense of this?” The moment I take the letter, Larisa sits up correctly and adjusts her hair as if me taking the letter a great burden has been lifted from her. While it doesn’t necessarily please me to see my master so disheveled, it is humbling to know she isn’t omnipotent.
Let’s see now… it’s a simple letter addressed to Larisa. Hmm, while an intelligent mind wrote this, the grammar is a bit off. Combined with unnecessary words in certain places – I’ll go ahead and say this is coded. Two-paragraph formating… “May I write on this?”
She looks oddly at me, “You may.”
My inkpen is always loaded before my lessons. Focusing upon the letter, the code begins to fade right in front of me and the message become clear. Circle some letters, write them down at the bottom, read the context… and there. Solved. I never thought my mother’s silly ciphering games would come in handy at this point in my life.
“I’ve deciphered it.”
Her eyebrows lower and her brown eyes shift sideways towards my presence, “Do go on.” Her voice is beyond sceptic.
“Do you know a woman by the name Olivana?”
That name alone perks her eyes up. She quickly recovers from the shocked look but that split second tells me that she is far more willing to listen to me. “Why yes, she is a friend from nearly another life ago.”
“She has something to give you, a ring, and she’ll be waiting at Harland’s Emporium tomorrow at noon sharp.”
“That is remarkable… are you certain?”
Larisa stands and takes the few steps it takes to reach the chair I’m in. “Show me.”
I hand her the letter, “Codes are easier to read when you know precisely what you’re looking for. Emera is a linguist and translator for the Rana government, she use to always play coding games with me growing up. It’s the reason I pick up on languages so easily. There are two different things going on in this letter. While the context doesn’t make perfect sense, each line relays something she wants you to know.”
She keeps looking at the letter and then to me. I continue, “At one point she talks about the birthday of her niece, later she talks about a noon flight, and the part about the cloud rings is the object. That date is tomorrow and the flight is when she’ll be there. Each first letter in each sentence is the second part of the message. In this specific format, the first paragraph is the location – ‘Harlands.’ The second paragraph is a request – ‘wear blue.’ I got her name from certain phrasing but I’ve never been a fan of that technique.”
“Well look at that… never did I think you’d be teaching me something. You certainly don’t give your mother enough credit.” Her eyes look over the letter again, picking up on what I just told her. “Why don’t you like her naming technique?”
Smiling, I shrug, “I like to think of pen names. Characters specific to a person I’m writing too. That way my name is unbreakable since there is actually no code and only the person I wrote it to knows it is from me.”
“Interesting, what is your name is you ever write something secretly to me?”
Without hesitation, “Brownson Hennick.” Sadly I have thought of this before.
The certainty in my response catches her off guard and cracks a short laugh from her. Larisa lifts an eyebrow to me and grins, “Why Brownson Hennick?”
“It has a nice noble ring to it. No one would ever expect a letter from me with such a manly name attached. Iit doesn’t even sound halfling.”
Larisa kisses the top of my head and whispers to me, “Very well Brownson, let’s get to your studies for the evening.” She tosses the letter in the fire and ascends upon her chair once more.
The moment I wrote that letter yesterday, I keep replaying that memory over and over in my head. While Larisa is far more experienced and intelligent than I am, she must remember that moment. It was the only time I recall, ever, when I was able to do something better than her. That’s probably the reason I remember it so vividly. I miss her. She said I needed to become more worldly, that I had learned everything I could in Rana, that I’ve been sheltered… maybe all this is for the best? No, this isn’t a safe scenario. I hope she got my letter.
There was a moment at dinner tonight when my mind actually wasn’t dominated with thoughts of my master and of home. Perhaps it was the conversation, perhaps it was the whisky, or perhaps it was me just letting my guard down for a moment – but for that moment I was actually focused in the moment. The further we fly away, I wonder it this will happen more frequently. I don’t know if I want that. Rana, this only place I’ve ever known, shrunk to nothing and eventually faded from my vision over the horizon. I am truly in unfamiliar territory.
I have only been drunk a few times in my life, this isn’t one of them. With that said though, I am far from sober. All it took was one whiskey to get me in this state. Oh how Arven use to tease me, called me a ‘light weight,’ and how I would throw a fit at him in response – those were good days. I’m uncertain how long I’ve been smiling, but I am. Recently it seems that thoughts of home, family, and friends are the objects of most joy in my life. I feel the smile fade as I dread how much I miss them all.
When can I go home? I’m not even sure why I agreed to come along on this. I’m not thinking logically. It was all just a misunderstanding. Yea, certainly, if that mysterious woman didn’t appear and rescue all of us we’d all have died in the mines because ole Judge Glott got frustrated and lazy. But… it was just a mistake, right? Sure an exceptionally large mistake, but still a mistake. I could have died.
There was no danger in Rana. No one knew my name. If they did… I wouldn’t have been sentenced so unfairly. Just mistakes. I could have returned. I wouldn’t have to have this terribly biscuit taste in my mouth. I wouldn’t be alone in this wooden box. I’d have water, and food, and baths… and, and, and…
I’m crying. I’m scared. I tuck my arms around my legs and curl up on this bed. There are no servants or family here. I have never been anywhere where I didn’t know someone. I’ve never even left Rana. I don’t know what’s out there. I look out over the sky and the brume and it just goes forever. This isn’t my world. That dog-sized rat wanted to kill me. It viewed me as food. If those people I’m traveling with weren’t there, it would have eaten me. I look at my wrist where it sank its filthy fangs into my flesh. The pack of those beasts would have torn me apart!
It’s stuffy in here. I can’t take it! Wiping my tears, I grab my winter coat and charge out the door. I need to get away from here, I need to be anywhere else. Anywhere that is not here. I don’t get very far before I stop. There is no where else. I’m flying in the air. I walk to the ledge and look over. If the fall somehow didn’t kill me, the brume would. I’m trapped, there is no point in thinking elsewise. The frigid air makes my tears feel like icy daggers on my face. Everywhere I go there is just more pain.
Faint accordion and cheers come from the mess hall. They are managing to keep their spirits up. I shouldn’t have gone to sleep so early. I should try to befriend them all. I could go now, say I changed my mind about sleeping. I won’t. That conversation over the drink made me so depressed, Lord Iosia made me feel so alone. How could someone’s own child do that to their parents? Was I like Rupert at one point? If I had that power would I have done something similar to my mother? I did so many terrible things to those who love me.
I stumble back to my room and just fall face first on my bed. I don’t even bother taking my coat off. Where before my memories brought me joy, they now plague me. I’m going to die out here. The people of Rana will remember me as that bitch terrorist, there will be no heir to Alodia, and I’ll never have a chance to apologize to anyone. Just like that the tears begin again. Why is the crew of the Nora Perdy putting up with us? Up with me? Who was that woman? Am I actually in danger? Is Rana corrupt? Will I die before I learn the truth about father?
There is still comfort in my necklace. I remember when father gave it to me. It’s fitting that I made it into my focus, if it wasn’t for him I’d never have gotten into magic. When I woke up from the rifle butt, it was gone. I was afraid I’d had lost it forever; I panicked. It’s all I have from him, it’s my only possession that can’t be replaced. It was all just a mistake. When we reach Marwan, Lord Forshen will have a simple solution to all of this. He’ll help. He’ll fix everything. Him and father were close. I remember him and Arven standing there at his funeral, I’ll never forget that.
A combination of the crying, frantic running around, whisky, and hour of night finally takes its toll on me as my eyes become heavy. It was just a mistake. Larisa will get my letter, she’ll know what to do. It was just a mistake…