Worth the Candle, Ch 72: Tripartite Talks

Amaryllis brought the soulcycle to a rest fifty feet from where Fallatehr stood, closer than I would have liked. He was basking under one of the farmhouse’s outside lights, smiling faintly at our arrival, that smile wide enough to reveal the sharp teeth in his mouth. I wasn’t frightened, per se, but I was wary. He had thrown the police my direction, and my guess was that having me cut myself off from my ability to use essentialism was a large part of the reason that he’d done that. I had to believe that removing the skill was what any soul mage would do, if faced with a sentence of death, and perhaps I would have done it even if the Abswifth and I hadn’t been able to come to such a tidy agreement. All the same, that didn’t feel like the full picture of what Fallatehr was planning.

Amaryllis stepped off the bike, gave me an uncharacteristically nervous glance, and then looked to Fallatehr as I dismounted.

“We need to have a private conversation, just the three of us,” she said to me, but voiced loud enough that Fallatehr was in no danger of not being able to hear her.

I looked at her, in her magical armor, short hair slightly unkempt from the wind of the soulcycle, then kept myself from glancing at the hilt stuck through a loop of leather at her side. I knew that it was there though. If she was compromised, then in a fight between the two of us, I was fairly sure that I was fucked, especially since my own armor was sitting in the glove on her hand. Fenn was stuck there too, for that matter, and she wasn’t about to come out without knowing what was happening outside, not when we might be cruising down the road at considerable speed. I looked at Amaryllis’ face. Compromised? It was impossible to tell just by looking at her, but I couldn’t think of any other explanation.

“Why?” I asked, voice low.

“Grak and I spoke,” Amaryllis replied, still obviously speaking loud enough for Fallatehr to hear. With how far away he was, the quiet of the farm (silent, save for the noise of insects) wasn’t enough to camouflage even casual conversation. Amaryllis was being loud on purpose though, as a signal to either me or Fallatehr, maybe both. “As I said, we have to have a talk, just the three of us.”

“You’re ambushing me,” I replied, looking her over. Ambushing me, or converted to his side and ambushing me, but I looked into your soul not less than twenty minutes ago, and I don’t understand how Fallatehr would have done it, if he did. “And you don’t want Fenn out, why?”

“She hates him,” said Amaryllis. Her voice was calm and even, like she was trying to talk down a barking dog she knew listened to tone alone. She’d used that voice on me a few times before, and I’d never liked it. “It would be detrimental to the conversation if she were interjecting.”

“Or objecting,” I replied. I glanced to Fallatehr, who was still standing beneath the light. His smile was more subdued now.

“That too,” replied Amaryllis. “Come on.”

I stayed right where I was, trying to think over my options. How much did I trust Amaryllis? A fair amount. How much did I trust Amaryllis when our ally/adversary was an expert in changing people on a fundamental level? The answer to that depended on what I thought had happened between her and Grak when they were alone, unless she’d been tainted by Fallatehr’s influence even further back.

This here, what she was doing, keeping Fenn in the literal and metaphorical dark, trying to hold a conversation with Fallatehr that I wasn’t prepared for or briefed on, that I didn’t trust.

“We’re leaving,” I said to her. “Whatever it is you want to talk about, we can talk about it somewhere else. A three-way conversation is too messy.”

“You think he has me?” asked Amaryllis, cutting to the chase. “He doesn’t. Juniper–”

“You know that anything you say is meaningless,” I replied. My hands were sweating, and I was acutely aware of the ring on my finger, the defense that I would have to deploy if things got heated. I cursed myself for not having put my armor back on when I’d had the time for it, but it wasn’t supposed to be like this, I had cleared her. “There’s no assurance that you could possibly make, all we have are actions and trust mechanisms, and you — if he got to you, or didn’t, you know that this right here is a violation of my trust, and Fenn’s.”

“Arguments are still valid,” replied Amaryllis. “If he had gotten to me, altered me down to the core in some way, that wouldn’t prevent me from making a coherent argument, right?”

I paused. “It would be harder, much harder, than if I could trust you, which I now can’t. Let out Fenn. Let out Grak. Then we can talk.”

“We’ll stand apart as we talk,” said Amaryllis. “Fenn would disrupt it, you know she would. I could bring out Grak, but I think that would just make you more leery, because you don’t trust him either, and he … he was compromised, not probably, actually. He told me as much, while we were away. That’s what I want to have this conversation about.”

“Fuck,” I said, staring at her. I was more skilled with a sword than Amaryllis, but she had the better sword. All she really had to do was slip within my guard and point it at my chest, then flicker it on. That would have been true even if I had armor on. She had the glove as well, and knowing Fenn, it had a fucking ridiculous array of weaponry available at her tips if she wanted to take me out as I ran. And she has Fenn, and the teleportation key. I couldn’t realistically run away from this conversation, but I didn’t see what good a conversation would do, unless–

I could stall. Fenn would eventually start to wonder why she hadn’t been popped out, and despite the risk of appearing from thin air while the glove was moving over the road at sixty miles an hour, she would force her way out. Or even if she didn’t make that choice, the air tanks weren’t limitless, and she could come out rather than suffocate, the choice having been made for her. Time was on my side, as far as Fenn went … but even when she showed up, we wouldn’t actually be safe. She wouldn’t have her bow, her bow was in the glove, but it would be two against two — two against three if Grak got out, and the two minions, who were probably just out of sight, meaning two against five.

Not that Fenn was going to come out in a good position anyway, since she would be right beside Amaryllis, disoriented and confused, and in the time that it took to get her bearings, both physically and cognitively, she could get ambushed.

Skill increased: Analysis 3!

“Okay, fine, let’s have this conversation,” I said, not really thinking that I had any better options. I didn’t know whether time was working for me or against me, but Fenn and Grak coming out was inevitable, and that would at least be a change. If they — no, I couldn’t go that far, to start thinking of Fallatehr and Amaryllis as a coherent unit, not yet — if Amaryllis didn’t seem worried about moving things along, then maybe I was the one who should worry.

Skill increased: Analysis 4!

I didn’t like the skill-ups. They were coming a bit too fast now, and I thought that I knew why; they came faster when I was threatened, when the skills were being put toward something vital, rather than trivial. I didn’t like the idea that this conversation was going to be vital. It would have set me on edge even if the game wasn’t implicitly saying that it was important. My heart was thumping, and I used a small amount of blood magic to slow everything down just a hair, hoping that it would keep me focused instead of hopped up on adrenaline.

“You fucked with Grak’s soul,” I said to Fallatehr. I stayed next to the soulcycle as Amaryllis moved away from me. We formed a triangle, with Fallatehr beneath the light, myself by the white glow of the souls in the soulcycle’s tank, and Amaryllis in relative darkness.

“I altered it, yes,” said Fallatehr with a nod. “There was no trust between us, and no real possibility for trust, so as soon as the opportunity presented itself to me, I acted. I wanted information, and he had it. The only other alteration I made to him was to make him loyal to me, in order to ensure that he wouldn’t reveal what I had done. It was always meant to be a short-term measure.”

“Is that supposed to make us feel better?” I asked.

“It makes me feel better,” replied Amaryllis. Her arms were folded across her breastplate. “Grak explained it to me. He came clean. Do you think that shouldn’t make us feel better? It’s truth, a truth that he didn’t need to give to us. That’s a step in the right direction.”

“No,” I replied. “It was ambiguous before, but now it’s concrete. We can’t trust him. You don’t get credit for saying sorry.” (You actually did get credit for saying sorry, and I realized that as I tried to search for an appropriately biting comparison, but I was hoping that we could steamroll past that error in my logic. ‘You don’t get credit for saying sorry’ had, for a long time, been something that I’d told myself so I could both avoid apologizing to people and hold onto grudges. Old habits, I guess.)

“All he wants is to look at your power,” replied Amaryllis.

“Which he’d need to look at my soul to get,” I replied. “And he can fuck off if he thinks that I’d ever willingly grant him access to my soul.”

“It wouldn’t be necessary,” said Fallatehr. “There are a variety of techniques that might allow me access to your soul without giving me the ability to change anything within it. That is one of the things that I would like to discuss with you.”

“I wouldn’t be able to trust those techniques,” I replied. “And furthermore, I wouldn’t be getting anything out of it, because you’re no longer my teacher.”

“We need him to be,” said Amaryllis. “You still need your bones fixed, and we still have to figure out a solution to restoring the locus.”

I stared at her. “And how the hell is he going to function as my teacher?”

“Communication over a distance is a solved problem,” Amaryllis answered. “You’ve already said that him touching you wasn’t something that was ever going to happen, and if that aspect of teaching is out the window, then there’s no point in co-location whatsoever. Given the potential downsides, which I’m ready to fully admit, there’s no reason we should be on the same continent.”

“He wants something immediate, I want something continuous,” I said, folding my arms across my chest, double-checking that the Anyblade was still there on my finger. “And to be frank, the thought of Fallatehr getting my power is too fucking terrifying to consider, so he’s not going to be studying it either way, end of story.”

“You’re upset about your friend,” Fallatehr said. He was doing the same thing she was, using a soothing voice, and it was grating on me. At least he had the excuse of not knowing better. “The effect on Grak will wear off.”

“No, I’m not upset about — I am upset about that, but it’s not why I’m saying this,” I replied. “I’m not fucking doing whatever it is you think is the solution to the trust problem, this conversation is over unless you can furnish a hell of a better defense. Do you think that I haven’t been thinking about this? I have, and I already came to my conclusion. You’re going to have to give me new information if you want to sway me.” I looked from Fallatehr to Amaryllis. So far, the new information is that Fallatehr probably got to her too, somehow.

“Would you like to hear the methods by which I would come to understand your power?” asked Fallatehr.

I looked to Amaryllis. She hadn’t budged. I couldn’t leave the entirety of my team behind, which would be what I was doing if I ran. Soulfucked or not, she had the power to make me stay just by holding her ground. A glance at the soulcycle told me that I could probably start it up again; instead of keys in the ignition, there was the handle of a screwdriver. That probably still wasn’t an option, since I’d seen how quickly Amaryllis could cross a distance of 50 feet.

“Sure, fine,” I said. “Let’s hear it.”

“Memories are difficult to work with,” said Fallatehr. “Difficult, but not impossible. Your memories of what you have seen and felt of your own soul would suffice, for my purposes.” He held up a hand as I opened my mouth to offer the obvious objection. “I would not need to touch your soul. With your skill as it is, you would be able to transfer those memories into the soul of an intermediary, who would then go to visit me, on another continent, as Amaryllis suggested.”

“I would have to interface with the intermediary,” I replied. “No reason that you couldn’t fuck me over using them.”

Fallatehr had the gall to laugh. “Do you think it’s so easy to teach soul magic to others?” he asked. “Not everyone can pass through years of training in a matter of minutes. If they could, you wouldn’t be special enough to spend time on.”

“I’m flattered,” I replied with a roll of my eyes. Where was Fenn? As soon as she came out, things were going to change, and I needed to be ready.

“I am told that there is a limit to your soul magic beyond which you will need me,” said Fallatehr. “A numeric score presented to you?” he asked. I didn’t reply to that. To say that I needed him was putting it a bit strongly, I thought. “I will murder Rehta and Lepenn before your eyes, leaving myself with no support. The non-anima is no ally of mine, but if you wish, I will end her too. None of them were ever trained in soul magic, but if it would give you a measure of security, I would do it.” He caught something of my expression. “Or something less lethal, if you prefer? Their help to me would be marginal at best, if you were to train at a distance.”

“You really don’t have a read on me, if you think that murder is going to endear me,” I replied.

“If you’d like, I could tell you who the two of them were before I began my effort to reform them,” replied Fallatehr. “They could tell you themselves, if I had time to collect them. Perhaps that would assuage your moral concerns.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I replied. “We’re not going to do the transfer thing, it doesn’t actually help with trust if you get what you want and then leave, and I can’t imagine that you’d offer to teach me with no chance to get what you want, not unless you were planning to betray me — betray me again, that is, since you’ve already done it twice.”

“Twice?” asked Fallatehr with a raised eyebrow.

“Grak, and sending our information to the authorities in Parsmont,” I said.

“And did that plan of mine bear fruit?” asked Fallatehr. I could almost admire how brazen he was about it. (Almost.)

“He’s stripped of his ability to do soul magic,” replied Amaryllis.

I looked to her again, my eyes wide this time. That was final confirmation that she was compromised, well and truly, however it had happened, because I couldn’t see a single reason for her to say that, even as a ploy.

“Ah,” said Fallatehr with a smile. “Then I suppose, having offered the sugar cube, I might now try employing the riding crop. There was some danger, if you still had your capabilities, of us coming to an unfruitful war with one another on contact, one that I was not sure to escape from unscathed.” He took a step forward. “Very well then, Juniper Smith, you know that Grakhuil’s soul has been altered, and by now you must know that the same has been done to Amaryllis, or are so obstinate that it doesn’t matter whether or not you know.”

She opened her mouth to say something, and Fallatehr waved a hand to silence her. When he did, her stance changed, and she focused the entirety of her attention on me, with her bladeless hilt drawn and ready to materialize.

“Grakhuil and Amaryllis have both been instructed to end their own lives if I die, or if you are successful in your attempt to flee,” he said as he started walking toward me. “Amaryllis dear, before you kill yourself, make your best attempt at murdering the half-elf and the non-anima as well, would you.”

“Yes sir,” replied Amaryllis with a curt nod. Her mask had dropped completely, leaving only cold calculation beneath it. I just couldn’t understand how it made any sense, given what I had seen in her soul. It might have been one thing if there were some obvious change, but whatever he’d done was so subtle that I’d completely missed it.

“So, here is my offer to you, Juniper Smith,” said Fallatehr. He was walking slowly but confidently, whatever wariness he felt at the fact I was armed firmly masked. “Allow me unfettered access to your soul, and I will spare your friends, then disappear from your life forever.”

“Once you have access to my soul,” I replied, swallowing hard, “There would be no reason to keep any of your promises.”

“True,” replied Fallatehr. He kept coming closer. “But what other option do you have? Would you run away, leaving everything and everyone behind? You would be consigning them to their deaths.”

I had to admit, as I saw him coming toward me, that it did seem to be my best option. I was skeptical that he would actually kill valuable resources like that, especially if he had touched Amaryllis’ soul and seen the link going back to me (but I was skeptical of that, given that he hadn’t used it to take me over). I only had two arrows in my metaphorical quiver. The first being the fact that I still had my soul magic, something that Fallatehr seemed to think was important, and the second being Fenn, when she eventually came out of the glove.

As if on cue — possibly literally on cue — she appeared in front of Amaryllis. She bent over panting and ripped off the mask to draw in air, gasping and looking around wildly. I let out an inarticulate shout of warning, but that accomplished nothing, since Amaryllis was within arm’s reach. She leaped down on top of Fenn and grabbed Fenn’s arm, twisting it behind her back and pushing hard. I didn’t know which of them was stronger, but Amaryllis was shorter, and she had to use her position to sit on the small of Fenn’s back, pinning her in place with all her weight. Amaryllis brought the sword-hilt around and pointed it at the back of Fenn’s head.

“Give him what he wants!” she shouted at me. Fallatehr had sped up, still walking with confidence, and my attention was split between him and the sight of Fenn, struggling beneath Amaryllis, trying to throw her off.

I tried to steel myself for a war of soul magic with Fallatehr, a war I would have to learn how to fight on the fly, he was still striding toward me, confident and feral, and I was struggling to remember precisely what he’d said, about not being confident that he would be unscathed, and it might have been that he was setting me up to fail, but Fenn was a single fucking thought away from having a sword straight through her head, and —

It didn’t make sense. I looked over at them again.

Amaryllis, trying to keep her position, while Fenn bucked and wriggled beneath her.

Amaryllis, being moved around while wearing the fucking immobility plate.

I waited until Fallatehr was next to me, then turned the Anyblade from a ring into a dagger, burned through four bones of my left hand at once, and with a surge of my blood working in concert, drove the dagger up toward his stomach.

Maybe somewhere in the back of my head I’d been thinking of how good it would feel to stab that motherfucker, or how fitting it would be to cut past all the bullshit and finally end him. When I went to stab him, maybe I was thinking about that, rather than what my next move would be, and that’s why, when he executed a surprisingly quick dodge, I stumbled and was put off my balance.

I’d sliced into him, a grazing cut to his side, and he clutched it while wincing in pain, then drew a dagger of his own from behind his back and clutched it in front of him. I could tell from his stance that he wasn’t incompetent, but I hadn’t had enough actual training to know whether or not he was any good just from the way he faced me.

I had an enormous number of advantages on my side. Blood magic, bone magic, the Anyblade, Ropey, a plethora of virtues, Blade-bound the most important among them — and no small amount of righteous anger spurring me forward, the threats levied against my friends, the harms done to them. I glanced over at Amaryllis for long enough to see that she’d tossed the hilt to the side and was trying to slam Fenn’s face down into the dirt. She wasn’t using the armor or blade because she couldn’t, because she wasn’t actually Amaryllis, which explained why a view of Amaryllis’ soul had shown no hints of such utter betrayal.

Fallatehr was faster than me, and at first I thought that was his only advantage, but it soon became clear that there was something else at play, as strikes that should have hit home were turned aside with only token effort on his part, and he ducked beneath attacks that he shouldn’t have even been able to see, let alone avoid. Luck, I realized. He was hundreds of years old, and elves accumulated luck with age.

Still, he was only barely keeping up his defense. I was getting notifications for my skills as we fought, which meant that I was becoming a better fighter and mage as the battle went on. The Anyblade gave me reach, which was hard to counter against, and the extra speed and power of blood magic, combined with the occasional surge as I pulled from my bones, meant that he wouldn’t be able to last for long. He seemed to feel the same way.

“I have Amaryllis –” our blades clanged against each other as I parried his attempt at going in low and followed it with a riposte, “– she’s held by –” our blades met again, this time a parry from him, perfectly deflecting my attack upward, but I reshaped the Anyblade to keep his dagger from pushing me too far off the mark and he pushed himself back to avoid my quick backswing, “– Rheta, if you –”

The Anyblade, shaped into something more like a sickle than a sword, came slicing backward and caught him in the neck, moving through him with an edge sharp enough to cut bone. I felt a slight snag as I hit one of the vertebrae, but the resistance wasn’t much, and he stumbled back and fell over as blood began to spurt out of his throat. He clutched it, and seemed to be trying to say something, but I turned my attention to Fenn rather than try to make out what it was he was trying to threaten or coerce me with.

Fallatehr Whiteshell defeated!

Quest Complete: Soul Responsibility – You have killed Fallatehr Whiteshell, whom you released from prison, before he could do much lasting damage on the world.

(A quest that I hadn’t actually seen pop up, now marked as completed, which was something to ponder for another time.)

Fenn had things well in hand. She was sitting on top of the presumed-imposter Amaryllis, punching her repeatedly in the face. I ran over to them, with a last glance toward Fallatehr to make sure that he was staying down, and quickly drove my Anyblade, shaped to a spear, down through fake-Amaryllis’ eye.

Lehpenn Ironwood defeated!

“Imposter,” I said, feeling a momentary flip of my stomach as I looked down and worried that I’d made a mistake, even with what the game had told me. It looked like her, the same beauty, now spoiled by the damage that Fenn and I had inflicted. It still felt wrong somehow, when I pulled my spear from her head, like my brain wasn’t able to connect what I was seeing with what I logically knew to be true.

“We’re sure?” asked Fenn.

“Game notification,” I said, tapping the side of my head. “Not one hundred percent before that, no, but she wasn’t using her magic items, and — maybe I knew it from instinct, or Luck, or beamed into my head by the game.” The fight against Fallatehr had left my nerves a wreck, even if it hadn’t been a pitched battle like the ones I’d fought in before.

“Fuck, I thought I was beating her half to death,” said Fenn, staring down at her bloody hands. After a moment she reached down and began working the glove off of Amaryllis’ hand. “What the fuck happened?”

“Not sure,” I replied. I felt like throwing up. I looked over to the farmhouse, and when I looked back, Amaryllis’ body was gone, sent inside the glove. I really didn’t know exactly what had gone on, but I could work backward. The fact that Fallatehr had made his minion Lehpenn into a pretty damn good mimic of Amaryllis seemed to indicate that he’d had access to her soul at one point or another. I wasn’t clear on the exact mechanism you’d use to make a mimic using soul magic, but copying over bones was possible, and that was probably the pathway (unless he’d done something like what had happened to make the pelehr, but with far more skill and nuance). As for why, that was a little bit trickier. I had checked her soul to see whether anything had happened to it, and she had known that I had the means and motive to do that — so the first thing that she would have told Fallatehr, as soon as he had made himself the most important thing in the world to her, would be that he was in danger of leaking information to me.

Skill increased: Analysis 5!

There were a lot of gaps in my knowledge at that moment, some of which could probably be filled through inference, but there were at least two vital issues at hand. The first, at least, I thought we could solve.

“Grak’s still in the glove,” I said. “Bring him out.”

Fenn held her hand forward and Grak appeared in front of her, looking around wildly and holding onto his tank. I leapt forward before he had a chance to get his bearings and threw Ropey at him. While the rope was wrapping itself around him, I pulled his axe from his belt and threw it aside, then pushed him to the ground. “Gag him,” I said.

Fenn pulled out a length of cloth from her glove and sat on top of him briefly in order to work it into his mouth. She punched him once on the back of his head to get him to open up and then tied the cloth tightly in place. She glanced down in the dim light and winced. “He’s bleeding, might have bit his tongue trying to keep me out.”

“Fallatehr said there was a deadman’s — deadelf’s — suicide switch,” I replied. “It’s probably that. I was hoping he was lying about it. Failing any other options, and with Fallatehr dead, he’s going to try to kill himself. Bring the body back out?”

Fenn stood and complied, letting the very realistic recreation of Amaryllis’ corpse fall down onto the ground. I patted it down, moving quickly, going to the places where I knew she normally kept what little equipment she went around with. I found the crystal hanging around her neck, and the cloak made of leaves that had once belonged to Solace. I put it on and reached into it, but though I could feel the extradimensional space it contained, I couldn’t feel the teleportation key there, nor the bottle.

“Teleportation key is missing,” I said.

“Well fuck,” replied Fenn. She rolled Grak over; he was staring at her with murder in his eyes. “Don’t worry, Joon’s going to fix you.”

“Teleportation key missing means that they could be anywhere,” I said. “Literally anywhere on Aerb.”

“Yeah, I said ‘well fuck’,” replied Fenn with a shrug. “What more do you want from me?”

I frowned at that and then went over to Fallatehr, who had stopped moving. I jabbed him in the head with my spear all the same. You always double-tap, that was just common sense. I searched over his body, looking to see what he had on him, but he didn’t seem to have the teleportation key either.

“Fuck,” I said. “I’m going to go grab Valencia,” I replied, before jogging off toward the house, sword drawn.

When I got to the basement though, I found it empty.

“Okay, so I think I’ve got it,” said Fenn, sometime later. Grak was tied up, and gagged as well, though we’d tried to make him as comfortable as I could.

I’d gone back into my soul and copied over the bones, fixing the damage I’d done to myself in the course of the fight. The reusability aspect of that interaction surprised me, but I was extremely thankful for it, especially since a search of Grak’s bound (and angry) body revealed that his share of the fairies was missing.

“I should never have trusted the soul link,” I replied. “Codephrases probably wouldn’t have helped us, because if you have access to the soul to make a duplicate you can just pump them for information before reverting them, but … fuck, we could have done item identification, something like a simple demonstration that hereditary items still work, if we’d –” I paused mid-rant. “Can you demonstrate your bow for me?” I asked.

Fenn sighed. “I’ve literally been with you all day,” she replied. “You’ve seen me use the glove. You have full access to my soul. The artillery bow’s got a limited number of charges, and you’re asking me to expend one of them in order to prove something that should be completely obvious? When would I even have been replaced?”

I frowned. “Okay, point taken,” I replied. “Paranoia gone rampant, I guess.” I cracked my knuckles as I looked Fenn over. The hardest part of using soul magic to replace the bones in order to heal someone into being a physical duplicate was probably the parts where the soul didn’t actually match the body, minor nicks and scratches that hadn’t been healed yet. Clothes were easy enough to steal, and information was probably pretty easy to extract once you could fuck with values and social models, but now that I was aware of that vector of attack, I had to start thinking about ways to defend against it. (And after all, this was a setting with doppelgangers too, which we might have to face at some point in the future even though I’d been assured that Uther Penndraig had utterly destroyed the secret to their creation.)

“Alright, fine,” said Fenn, popping her bow out of the glove. Before I could object that she really didn’t have to, she fired off an arrow, which became two, then four, then eight, until a cloud of arrows was barely visible as it sailed over the farmhouse.

“You didn’t have to do that,” I said.

“And sit through you looking askance at me for the rest of our days?” she asked. “No thanks, I’d rather just spend the shot. Any bright ideas about how we find the princess and the demon girl?” She prodded me in the ribs when I didn’t respond. “Come on, normally you’re full of bright ideas, or at least ideas.”

“No,” I replied, looking down at Grak. “I have no idea.”

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Worth the Candle, Ch 72: Tripartite Talks

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