Haradeth withdrew his finger with a wince. There hadn’t been much blood, but enough to make him glad he’d only chosen the tip of his finger. The momentary flash of pain also helped Haradeth clear his brain from the earlier confusion. “So, one thing I don’t understand – where can you send us?”
“I can’t send you anywhere.” The Tarnished One gave Haradeth a broad smile. “The booger can.”
Haradeth glanced over at Lorathor, who was at least grinning. That made the budding headache Haradeth felt forming at least a bit more bearable. At least it’s somewhat worth it. The Tarnished One, despite clearly understanding what Haradeth meant, was also clearly going to make Haradeth ask the question correctly before she’d answer.
“Then where can the booger send us?” Haradeth asked, maintaining his patience. It was cheering Lorathor up some to watch Haradeth struggle, and Haradeth reminded himself of how inert Lorathor had been the past few days. It’s worth it, Haradeth repeated.
“It can send you anywhere that, in ancient times, the Sylvan placed receiving disks. And those disks are still functioning. I don’t have a working knowledge of where they are – I only know of a couple. Anortia might know, but she probably doesn’t because she’s just a pretentious song with delusions of godhood.”
Lorathor’s grin faded, and Haradeth had to bite back a curse. “Then if we don’t know where they are, how-” Suddenly, realization struck him, and his eyes widened. “Portal stones.”
Both Lorathor and the Tarnished One gave him curious looked.
“Portal stones!” he repeated excitedly. “That’s what the booger connects to. I remember my mother telling me stories about them! They were left behind by an Old Empire, the one that arose in the aftermath of the Ancient Alohym’s departure. In fact, I say we should call this a portal stone too.”
The Tarnished One sighed heavily, a mechanical grating sound. “Fine, if you want to use a boring name. And yes, those are probably what they are. We worked closely with the Old Empire and gave them access to the…portal stones.” Distain dripped off the last two words like a dirty handkerchief, but Haradeth was too excited to care.
“Do you know where they are?” Lorathor asked Haradeth, and from the sparkle in his eyes, some of Haradeth’s energy was infecting the Sylvani as well.
“There’s one in my mother’s forest. If she’s awoken yet, there might be more she knows of. And even if there aren’t, we know someone who can help us find them. Someone who has been drilled in history since she was in the cradle.”
“Tythel,” Lorathor said.
“Tythel,” Haradeth said, nodding in agreement.
“Tythel!” The Tarnished One said happily. They both looked at her, and she shrugged. “You were both shouting that word, so thought I’d join in. What’s a Tythel?”
“She’s the heir to the throne, a half dragon, and most importantly, she’s a historian.” Haradeth laughed.
“I’ll admit I’m surprised to hear you excited about anything involving her,” Lorathor said, scratching his chin in thought.
“Why wouldn’t he be?” The Tarnished One was tapping her foot in impatience.
“Because she wants to use us to follow her own personal vendetta,” Haradeth said. There wasn’t the usual edge to the words, at least not this time. “The good news is, this gets both us and her what we-”
The Tarnished One whipped the thin stiletto up to Haradeth’s throat with impossible speed. He cut the sentence off and clamped his jaw shut. “Bored now! No more talking about people I don’t know, or I see how many knots I can tie in your entrails before you die.”
Haradeth nodded frantically, and the Tarnished One withdrew the blade. “Good. Now then. I need time to make the ‘portal stones’ not turn pincushion into mush. It’s a stupid name, by the way.”
“Thank you, Tarnished One,” Haradeth said, and then decided to take a risk despite the blade that had just been at his throat. “Is there something else we can call you besides ‘Tarnished One’? It really is more of a title than a name.”
The Tarnished One frowned, and for a moment Haradeth thought he’d made an error and was about to find himself gutted. Just as he was about to flee for his life, the Tarnished One nodded. “No one ever asked me that. I think I’ll allow it, it would be nice have a name. Call me Bix. It’s kind of like the sound a knife makes when it goes into meat, a bit punchy, a bit squishy. Don’t you think it’s a good name?”
“Good. Now before I work on this-” she pointed the blade at Lorathor. “You seem mopey. I don’t like mopey, it’s boring. People who mope too much end up just kind of sighing in resignation when I threaten to kill them, and that’s no fun.”
Lorathor pursed his lips into thin lines. “Well, Bix, excuse me for being mopey. I’m kind of dealing with the sudden knowledge that my entire life up until now has been a lie.”
“Oh, psh.” The Tarnished One – Bix, Haradeth reminded himself – rolled her eyes. “That’s stupid, even for meat. So, you found out you’re not from this world and the being you worshipped as a goddess is a pretentious bard. You know how awesome that is?”
“I don’t see anything awesome about it,” Lorathor said.
“Because it means you can do whatever you want. This isn’t your world, and your goddess can’t do anything. You can sin if you want, you cannot if you want, you can live or die as you please. You can let me stab you over and over if you want, which I think it’s a great idea personally. You have total freedom because you know it doesn’t matter.”
Lorathor opened his mouth angrily to object, then stopped and considered her words. “I’ll think on that.”
Bix grinned widely. “Good. I’m full of good ideas. Especially the part about letting me stab you over and over. That’s the best idea ever. Now go away. I have to work.”
Haradeth glanced at Lorathor, who nodded.
The entire walk back, Lorathor didn’t seem to show more cheer than he had been, but at least seemed to be puzzling over Bix’s words.
Haradeth decided that, for now, that would be enough.
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