No, my lady, you do not think of the greater good.
|Olliver sat, bent over the parchment, eyebrows furrowed.
As he scanned the page for a reason to hope, so Sigrun scanned his face for the same.
He laid down the scroll with a sigh, tapped his pipe on the stone blocks under the bridge, and crushed out the spark in the incense. "We've the slight 'problem' that you haven't been angry in months—probably years."
Crazy talk. She tightened her brows and adjusted her sword. "With so many battles? In the face of an enemy, I feel—"
"Remember what you told me, how a Tempest saber isn't the same thing as a Davidian saber?" Olliver shook his head and placed his glasses in the protective tube. "In the face of danger, a warrior's heart stirs, to drive her into battle. For that, the vengeful passions suffice, but others.."
His eyes traced her lips.
The fragrant breeze carried the scent of fireberry blossoms as it teased through her hair, taunting her with the ash of missed opportunity and tempting her with still-smoldering embers. Sigrun nodded, watched him.
Olliver's eyes wandered into the distance, beyond the shade of the bridge, eyes scanning back and forth exactly as they did on the page. "A great warrior aims for more—less; something above the rancor. She aims for the best, no matter who that might benefit. At some point, the petty pangs of anger burn away. War ennobles the great in the same way that it corrupts the weak."
Sigrun blushed and turned away, toward the sunlit hillside. "You do me too much honor. That's not me."
"Isn't it? My dear, I beg to differ." He met her gaze and held it.
The wizard looked up at her with eyes somehow still fresh as the day they had met, over a decade ago, as children in the dark city streets. Sigrun bit her lip and tapped her toe, tried to bury her mind in the spring breeze and the greenery, anything to hide from his praise. "That's a very fine line. How can you be sure?"
"One example, or a hundred?" The fat little wizard scratched his beard and leaned back against the pillar. "At the battle of Lien, the Kaladieri brothers—even after all they had done to you, still you—"
"They'd learned the error of their ways. To tell their secret would serve no—."
"Justice!" The young wizard scoffed, and then laughed. "Okay, vengeance. You did the right thing, I know, but sometimes... I wished, still wish, you hadn't."
A troublesome sentiment, so like the men that they fought. Yet she knew nobody kinder than him. "I'm sorry. I had to think of the greater good."
He smirked, shook his head, and spoke in a soft voice. "No. You didn't."
No, I never had a choice—not really. Her voice tensed. "Don't you see? I couldn't—"
He put his hand on her shoulder, pulled her to face him. "It's my turn to be sorry. I mean, you don't have to think, or even have time to think. Not every time."
Relieved, she drew in a breath. He did understand. She looked down, nodded. "Oh."
"Just as you have trained your hand, so too, your heart." He rose to pat her on the shoulder plate. "Don't worry. I love you for it. I mean, most of the time."
She chuckled. "Am I that insufferable?"
"Oh, far worse than I say." Olliver smiled and conjured a yellow flower, then handed it to her. "Your company is, perhaps, the worst thing about following you on these many, dangerous missions you drag me about."
Sigrun took it, eying the color—symbol of friendship—then gazed at her friend, questioning.
He winked. "Red, yellow? A good illusion raises more questions than it answers."
Sigrun looked down, waited for a beat, for the moment to pass. "So, it's not going to work for me? Your spell."
He nodded. "Like 'Vog's Song.' Absent hatred, the charms fold in on themselves—useless."
"I've been doing this a long time. Am I losing my edge, is that why I don't have any anger to draw upon?" She ran her fingers through her hair. "Is the situation beyond me?"
"Never that, my lady. Never that!"
Despite the clear tone in his voice, she needed more. "You would tell me?"
He smiled with his eyes, and winked. "What, risk convincing you to retire? Heaven forfend." He rolled his smoking kit up and packed it in his belt pouch.
A chill wind blew, and Perrin stomped out of the woods, up the hill, swinging a solid steel hammer the size of Sigrun's head. He snorted. "Lady, Lord. Time come. Shall we?"