Chapter 20 - Brotherly Love; It's So Sweet Sometimes

And they waited, and waited…

“Ornrik,” Viselys said, “Go get some shut-eye. We’ll call you if we need you, but until then your time can be best served resting up and recovering your magic.” Ornrik made only mild protestation before complying…

“Ornrik, wake up,” Saris said, nudging the dwarf in his bunk.

Ornrik was on his feet with a wand in his hand in an instant. He was on the move even as he spoke, “How many? What does it look like?”

“Er…” Saris began to reply, but the dwarf had already outpaced him and was out of earshot.

As Ornrik emerged on deck, he was nearly blinded by the morning light. He recoiled, shielding his eyes with one hand, holding out the wand with the other as if he would dispatch the sun. The dawn was not optimum by any means. The mists had yet to fully burn off. However, for a being who is naturally adapted to underground environs, coupled with the fact that Ornrik fully expected that dawn was still hours away, the light was sufficient to catch him completely off guard. “What happened?”

“Nothing,” Amella responded from her ineffectual position at the helm, “a few more came sporadically throughout the night, but nothing we couldn’t handle – with ease, in fact. I think the first wave was just to test us out, and the rest were just to keep us unsettled.”

“We saw no need to wake you, friend,” Viselys said, slapping Ornrik on the back. “Now, however, I would like you to prepare your spells with the defense of the crew in mind. I will take a small group on an expedition to the heart of the Sargasso, but I’d like you to stay behind and help protect the Sea Wyvern and the crew.”

After Ornrik had prepared his spells, he sent the expedition on their way and began talking strategy with Saris, who was also staying behind.

Viselys, Adameus, Diamondback, Skald, Cedric and Malcolm trudged off on the spongy seaweed in the direction that seemed most likely the center of the mass. The going was slow as their feet sunk into the wet surface; at the lowest point, the water line was above their ankles and their feet made a wet sucking noise as they pulled up to take another step.

After a time, Adameus approached Viselys, who was out in front of the group, “Viselys, I’d been wanting to talk to you for some time now about something.”

“Of course. About what?”

“About the magical hairpin we took off of Rowyn. I’d like to have it.”

Viselys chuckled, “Oh, no. No way. You’ve pulled enough pranks on me – I don’t need to give you the means to…”

Adameus was not smiling. “If that is what concerns you, I will give you my word that I will never use its magic against you. In fact, I’ll give my word that I will never use it for frivolous reasons.’

Viselys realized that Adameus was serious, so his own smile went away and his brow knit together, “Why is this so important to you?”

“I don’t know. A couple of reasons, not least of which is Ornrik.”

Now Viselys was confused, “Ornrik? What does he have to do with this?”

Adameus recounted the incident with the horseshoes, “…and he just took them and gave them to Avner. I found those horseshoes, and they were mine to give, but Ornrik has this impression that if it’s magic, it’s his to decide how it’s used … Like that battle with the Fire Trolls…”

Viselys held up his hand, “Okay, okay, but what does this have to do with the hairpin?”

“Well, it was sort of the same with that. When Rowyn fell, I noticed that something was up and took the hairpin out of her hair. Ornrik took it to identify it and refused to give it back. As trite as it may sound, I resent that. It is an item I would like to have.”

Again Viselys chuckled, “I’ll bet you would.” And again Adameus did not share the humor. “Okay, then why are you bringing it up now after all these weeks?”

“Well, there hasn’t really been another opportunity, has there?” Adameus responded, “Since the battle with Rowyn, we have had more important things to focus on…”

“Like now?!” Viselys indicated the direction they were traveling, implying the dangers that lay ahead.

Adameus responded in a similar gesture, though sweeping his indication over the horizon, nodding his head and raising his eyebrows in a fashion that seemed to say ‘duh!’ “Well, I don’t see any immediate danger, and all we’re doing is walking. And, yeah, we haven’t had an opportunity like this until now. We’ve either been obtaining supplies, or preparing for battles, or fighting battles, or shopping for dresses, or planning parties, or having parties … I really didn’t want to bring this up during your birthday celebration.”

Viselys certainly couldn’t argue that point. After all, he had been intending to ask Adameus how he had know it was his birthday, but the opportunity for that conversation had not come up, and now certainly was not the time.

“Well, I’m sorry, but the answer is ‘no,’” Viselys responded.

Adameus stopped in his tracks from surprise, but as the others, who had drifted back to give a little distance from the heated discussion, began to catch up to him, he rushed to catch up to Viselys again. “What?!”

Viselys did not break stride, “I’m sorry, but it’s just too powerful an item.”

At this point, Adameus began to raise his voice, “So you’re saying you can’t trust me!?”

Viselys shook his head, “No, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, if it should fall into the wrong hands…”

“Wrong hands?!” His volume stepped up yet again, “I have fought by your side for how many months now? And mine would be ‘wrong hands’?!”

“I’m not saying yours,” Viselys said, exasperated, “I’m saying … for example, what about Gidrick? You’ve taught him to be an even better pickpocket than you. Can you guarantee that he wouldn’t get his hands on it?”

‘How did he know that?’ Adameus thought. ‘That was a private conversation I had with Gidrick’s mother.’ That did not matter though. “Can you?”

Viseslys did not answer, but the implication was made: ‘What qualified Viselys as a better guard for the object than Adameus? It was like an unspoken dare to him to declare himself stronger or smarter or in some other way better able to safeguard the object than Adameus.

Time passed in uncomfortable silence as they continued to walk. Ordinarily, the sounds of nature would soften the awkwardness, but on the Sargasso all that could be heard was the squishing and sloshing of feet in the mucky seaweed.

Then Adameus broke the silence again, “You know what, yes. Yes I can guarantee that Gidrick wouldn’t take it.”

Viselys rolled his eyes, “Really? How?”

“Gidrick is a good kid and I trust him.”

Viselys nodded, “And that’s the best reason I’ve heard for not letting you have the hairpin.”

Adameus turned red, “What? Why? Because I’m not as good a judge of character as you? Gidrick hasn’t tried to pass himself off as a priest or swindled old ladies out of there life’s savings or endangered the life of the crew or … or tried to KILL US!!” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Adameus regretted them. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Diamondback shrink to the back of the group. It was out there, though, so he saw little point in not pressing on, “Your trust is sufficient but mine isn’t, I suppose.”

“I didn’t say that,” Viselys argued.

“Didn’t you?” Adameus retorted.

Again they lapsed into silence. By this point it was midday and they stopped to rest and eat. This was done in complete silence.

Some time after they started walking again, they realized that the surface beneath them was a bit denser. They weren’t sinking in as deep and the suction on their feet was no longer an issue. As such, they were able to move at a better pace.

Eventually, Viselys broke the silence. “What do you want it for, anyway?”

“I don’t have a particular purpose for it in mind at the moment, if that’s what you’re asking. I don’t have a particular purpose in mind for these Boots of Elvenkind, either, but they were given to me as part to the party treasure. Why was that?”

“Because they were best suited to your talents. That is why Ornrik gets the wands and scrolls, and Saris and I get appropriate magic armor or weapons,” Viselys explained.

Just the answer Adameus expected, “And whose particular talents would be best served by the hairpin?”

“Yours,” Viselys acquiesced, but quickly added, “and if the need arises, I will give it to you.”

“Oh, ‘if the need arises.’ Okay.” With that, Adameus stopped, sat down and started to remove the magical boot. “So you should hold onto these until you decide I need to be stealthy.”

“Adameus…” Viselys started to protest.

Adameus continued, “No, if that’s the way you want it, take this, and this, and this…” he held out the boots, his Cloak of the Manta and Broach of Aptitude and then began reaching into his pouch for his two potions of Cat’s Grace.

“Come on, now, Adameus. Quit behaving like a baby…” As soon as he said it, he knew that it was the wrong tact. All the ad hominym did was flame the fire and did nothing to support his argument.

Adameus’ nostrils flared and his gaze shot daggers. He began putting his items back on in such a strong manner that it seemed that he might be preparing to use them in an attack on Viselys. This did not occur, however. Instead, when he had put everything back, he pressed his argument, “Seriously, though: Why do I get the Boots but not the Pin?”

Viselys felt himself up against a proverbial wall in this line of questioning, so he was really only stalling for time to think when he said, “It’s party treasure. How do you suggest we split a hairpin five ways?”

For what seemed like the first time since they left the Sea Wyvern, someone other than Adameus or Viselys spoke, “See? I am part of the group,” Diamondback said, elbowing Skald, apparently in reference to some conversation they had had previously.

“How do you know he didn’t mean me?” Skald retorted.

Both fell silent when Viselys shot them a stern look.

“Don’t give me that hair splitting,” Adameus retorted, not realizing that under other circumstances that would have been a funny pun, “We’re not talking about coin value – that’s never been the issue. But, while we’re on the subject, why exactly do you get to decide who gets it, anyway?”

They were back to this again. Viseslys couldn’t say anything that wasn’t self-edifying and derogatory to Adameus. “I don’t know. People seem to look to me as a leader, and I don’t know why…”

“Because you are Viselys Mortaum, the just and fair Guard of the Cudgel, the honorable and the brave!” It was not at all clear if Adameus was being sarcastic or sincere. “So I ask you this: Is it fair that Ornrik gets the scrolls and wands, and Saris gets the weapons and you won’t allow me to have the item that you, yourself, said was best suited to me?”

“Well, maybe it’s not fair…” Viselys began.

But Adameus had heard what he needed to, “And what would an honorable man do in the face of something that is unfair?”

“Are you saying that I am not honorable?” Viselys asked in a warning tone.

“Not at all,” Adameus shook his head, “It’s a fair question. How you answer it will reflect on your honor, without insinuation from me.”

“I should have destroyed it immediately when we found it,” Viselys almost whispered.

“So why didn’t you?” Adameus spat.

“Because I thought it might be useful,” Viselys replied, almost too quickly.

“Oh really?” Adameus said in an exaggerated faux surprise, “So why do you have it? Are you planning to use it? No, of course not. That’s what I’m here for – to do the things you find distasteful, like ‘cleaning out the cell.’”

Viselys bristled at this reference to his unwillingness to execute Rowyn. “It’s too dangerous…”

“So you’ve said,” Adameus interjected, “More dangerous than a magic sword?! I mean, really, how is it more dangerous than one of Ornrik’s scolls which allow him to turn invisible? What is the difference between being invisible or appearing to be someone else? No, bugger all that! All I want to know is why you don’t trust me?”

He tired to respond, “I trust you, but…”

“Ah, you cannot say ‘but’ without invalidating the first part of that sentence,” Adameus argued.

“Of course I can,” Viselys argued, “I trust you, but the item is to powerful…” he paused for half a breath to find his words…

…just long enough for Adameus to say, “…for what? For anyone but you to possess?”

Viselys hung his head, “I guess it’s my burden to bear.”

Adameus’ eyes squinted as if in disgust, “You arrogant son of a … that’s it! You are just like your father: It’s your way or no way. You know better than everyone. Fine, keep the infernal thing. Shove it down your throat for all I care. How ironic that something designed to hide someone’s true nature has so revealed yours. I have fought by your side. I have never lied to you or kept anything from you, taken more than my fair share of swag or stolen from you. I have never done anything to merit your distrust, yet you do not trust me. For all your idealistic talk about Good always winning and Justice and all that noise – and for all your willingness to give second chances, I guess that applies to everyone but me. Why is that, Viselys? Really, because I just don’t get it. The only answer I can imagine is that it really is because you are an arrogant bobby from a higher class who looks down on me as a petty thief whose only value is to do the dirty jobs your precious sensibilities won’t allow you to do – at least not directly. Let me tell you something, Guard, you’re no better than me. We’re the same … only I’m honest enough to admit to what I am. You hide behind duty and honor and your position of authority … so maybe that magical item of disguise is better suited to you, after all.”

Again they fell silent. Viselys was a bit stunned. The sky was beginning to redden by the time he found words, “You’ve given me much to think about, Adameus.”

“I don’t care,” Adameus responded. Then, as an afterthought, he spat, “sir!”

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