No, my lady, you do not think of the greater good.
|Olliver sat, scratching the first gray patch in his beard, eyebrows furrowed, as he stared at the parchment.
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.
One of many things that feelings had in common with blades. No one could really can herself an expert in the many subtle differences. Sigrun nodded.
"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.
As it teased through her hair, the fragrant breeze carried the scent of fireberry blossoms, taunting her with the burning 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 as children, over a decade ago, in the dark city streets. Desperate to hide from the praise, Sigrun bit her lip and tapped her toe, tried to bury her mind in the spring breeze and the greenery. "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 had 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. You just know."
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, or at least rage, 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?"
"Given our lack of preparedness," Oliver said, grabbing his shillelagh, "Perhaps we might sit this one out."
"Bah ha ha," Perrin laughed, trying to slap Olliver on the shoulder. "You joke never old."
"Neither your fake Urgan accent," the portly Olliver mused, stepping over a stump. .
"Not fake." Perrin smiled, leading down the hill. "Just not what seem."
Sigrun winked at Olliver. "Just as Olliver's suggestion is an Urgan pep talk, no?"
"Save for little soldiers," Perrin said. "Perrin courage rusted through. He abandon at first blood."
Sigrun slapped Perrin on the fake rust of his shoulder plates, "We'll miss you, you big Coward."
The hulking brute purred, "Like you Thorga could even find the battle without me."
The glint in Perrin's eye warmed Sigrun. On the verge of battle, just knowing his rugged urgan heart drummed nearby held the rhythm for her own. Yes, for her at least, the company of these two men more than repaid the price for duty.