This latest story just in from the UO Herald: Clainin Awake Clainin Awake Calvin Crowner 13 Mar 2009 16:56:48 EST Maron sat stirring his cup of water with his finger. Water. Still wet. Not much had changed with the rules of the world or the rasping shape clinging to life in the bed next to him. He’d read the same book four times in the last month or so. He hadn’t been permitted to leave his solid and miserably made oaken stool with the exception of severe physical need or until released from his thirty hour vigil. Each “Watcher” was given eight hours to sleep after a thirty hour post. Maron had not slept so soundly in his life, nor had he been so completely bored. “Anything could happen,” Casca had directed him, his face uncharacteristically dour. “You must be alert, you must be prepared, you must change the bed sheets.” Maron grumbled with the memory. What was there to worry about when you were nothing but an over-educated nursemaid for a comatose Archmage? Jessa Leis was a very skilled healer. She’d come to the group of care givers in the last three weeks and had shown more than a bit of talent healing both body and dispositions. She stood in the doorway carrying what seemed to be a picnic basket. Her sharp yet graceful elven features brought an immediate peace to the otherwise dull setting. Maron was glad to see her. “You’re early,” he managed after taking in her slim form. She’d pulled the chestnut tresses that normally hung about her shoulders, into an elaborate braid, a fine golden cord gathered across her forehead, vanishing in the mass of curled locks behind. “Nice hair.” He grimaced unable to fashion a better form of compliment. Her smile pushed from the center of her lips and tugged the corners sweetly as she spoke, “Oh my Maron, that’s four words already today. Do you feel dizzy?” She took a few cautious steps into the room looking over the still bedridden mage. “Nothing today?” “No. Not even wet sheets.” “Well that’s something to be thankful for. See what I’ve brought you for lunch …” And in that moment Clainin stirred, shocking and setting the two healers on their heels as if they’d been beset by rabid mongbat. “By the Virtues,” Jessa whispered. Jessa spun, dropping the basket, and gripping Maron at his shoulders. Her smile broad, Maron captured something … offsetting in her gaze. “Go …,” she commanded shaking him, “tell Father Heatherwix our charge is awake!” Maron found himself almost at a sprint before he caught himself a few steps down the hallway. Casca’s words catching in his memory. “You must be alert.” Younger healers don’t dismiss more senior healers. He paused and felt a knot forming his throat. His mind caught the gravity of the scene awaiting him as his eyes again adjusted to the dim light of the room. Jessa had pressed one knee into the mages side as the golden cord that had moments before held her hair, was pulled taught around the mage’s throat. His already pale flesh now threaded with blue and bruised veins on a death march toward his bulging eyes. Jessa’s back arched as the pressure of the cord turned in her delicate fingers. Part rage, part fear Maron’s voice pierced the normally tomblike silence of the halls, “Guards! … GUARDS!” In a surge, and without thought, Maron gripped the stool at its legs and smashed the seat across Jessa’s temple. With a viscerally satisfying “thop” she fell in a heap above Clainin. Shoving the elf to the floor, Maron’s training took over and he set himself to the immediate care of the victim. Rasping and thankfully choking, he cleared the obstruction from Clainin’s throat looking for further signs of trauma. Not taking his eyes away, he heard boots gathering in the entryway. The sound of swords returning to sheaths. His voice was quiet and scalding. Dangerous. “Take that,” he inclined his head toward Jessa, “and feed her to a cell. Send word to Casca. He’ll be happy to know he was right.” *** *** *** The message arrived in the clutches of a hawk. The courier set itself on its perch just inside the window of Casca’s chambers, overlooking the gardens below. Casca’s jaw set tightly, as he turned the parchment in his hands. His ministers stirred seeing his countenance washed with concern. “Clainin is awake. With haste, secure him. The future of Britannia is in danger.” Casca’s troubles seemed to be mounting. And now, the race was on.