Fanfiction

Leaving - Part 2

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Chapter 2

I heave the saddle onto on to Gahltha’s back then bend to tighten the girth. I am filled with nervous energy, anxious to be gone before I change my mind, yet reluctant to take the final step. “Have you said goodbye to Avra yet?” I enquire.

Yes, he sends, but I/Gahltha carry ElspethInnel only the first stage of her journey and will return before I sleep the longsleep. But you/ElspethInnel havenot told/farewelled Ruston/mate.

I sigh. “No, no-one knows about this journey and my quest, apart from the futuretellers and they’re not saying anything. Oh, most of them know I’m off on another trip, but they have no idea what it actually means or where it will end. Besides, who would question the legendary Farseeker Guildmistress, hero of a dozen expeditions?” I give a bitter laugh. “As for Rushton, he doesn’t know even that much. I couldn’t bear to tell him that after everything we’ve been through it’s over and I have to leave him. I was afraid that if I saw him again, if he looked at me and knew, I wouldn’t be able to make myself go. Better if I just disappear.” I grab the saddlebags and start buckling them on, suddenly afraid that someone will come.

“Elspeth!”

A terribly familiar voice calls my name and I look over my shoulder, feeling caught. It is Rushton. Turning back, I fight to control myself. I should have known that I could not leave without seeing him one last time, should have known he would find out.

“So, Javo was telling the truth when he said you were preparing for a long journey. You know the restrictions on Guildmistresses and masters travelling, not to mention the usual expedition rules. Why was guildmerge not consulted?” I stiffen at his tone, my knuckles whitening as I grip the strap in my hand. Slowly, deliberately, I feed it through the buckle then turn to face him.

“My journey is of a private nature and no concern of guildmerge’s.” My voice is cool, controlled, yet inside I am anything but calm. Part of me is crying out to him to leave me, let me go, while another is aching for him to hold me close forever; and a small voice is laughing at the irony of calling my quest private when the whole world is at stake.

“Your Guildmistress armband. You’re not wearing it.”

My mind freezes in surprise, of all the things for him to say... I tell him the simple truth. “No, it is with Ceirwan.”

“Why does he have it?” His voice is full of suspicion, with a hint of something more.

“I gave it to him. He knows what must be done.” As my guilden it is appropriate that Ceirwan be Guildmaster until they can arrange otherwise. I smile slightly, of all the humans at Obernewtyn, other than some of the futuretellers, he is the only one who may have guessed some of what I plan. He knows me so well, better even than Rushton or Dameon, and there were certain things he needed to be told.

“You’ve never left it behind on past expeditions.”

“No, but this time I cannot take it. It is time I gave it up.” Why is he so insistent about what is really just a simple armband, whatever it signifies? Or is it just an excuse, is he trying to say something more.

“But the position of Guildmistress is for life, or at least requires a full guildmerge.”

“Yes. I made sure you were unavailable at the time. I knew that you would try to stop me.” I remember that meeting. I said I was tired of the responsibility, that I wanted time for my own projects, all true if not how they thought. They were reluctant to agree, particularly with Rushton away. I’m not sure if they believed my story but I convinced them, just. I could have simply left, let them deal with it, but I wanted to do things properly. Another form of saying goodbye.

“That first winter, when you gave Daffyd your armband, I thought, we all thought...”

“Yes.” Now I see what he was getting at. He was remembering the ruins expedition. A journey to ruins and ending in ruins. It was on that journey that Pavo died of rotting sickness, Jik died in the firestorm and Domick left to spy in the Councilcourt, ultimately leading him to destruction and death. About the only thing that went right was rescuing Dragon, and even then she might have been better off without us. But this is not what Rushton is remembering. He is remembering me, left for dead with infected feet, then returning from the high mountains in time to save Obernewtyn from the soldierguards.

“But you survived, you came back.”

“Yes.” My voice is flat, cold. Yes, my miracle return that I can never forget. I laugh inside. Miracle, they have no idea how true that is. I played down the severity of my infection, made out that it was better than they thought. Only I know the complete truth; I was dying. That was why I gave Daffyd the armband. Not only so they would believe his message, but so they would know that I was no more. If not for the intervention of the Agyllians I would be dead. They were the true miracle. Yet others don’t know that. They see my other escapes and think that I am different, special. That is what Rushton sees now, the fact that every time he has thought I have died, I have returned. This time, I cannot let him hold onto that hope. He will waste his life waiting in vain, better to end it now and let him move on.

“I will come with you. Give me long enough to get some things together and I’ll come with you. I can’t lose you again.”

I stare at him in surprise. He would do that, give up his home, his friends, everything he has worked for, to come with me into the unknown. I long to accept, to have my love with me on my final journey, but it cannot be. “No, Rushton.” I shake my head, my voice gentle. “Obernewtyn needs you. The time has come and I must do this alone.” He opens his mouth to say something more but I cannot bear it any longer. I leap onto Gahltha’s back and we gallop off; towards the mountains, towards my destiny. He sands there staring after me, a lone figure by the empty stable. As we reach the trees I hear him call, a single word lost in the wind, yet it strikes me like an arrow to the heart. Tears streaming down my cheeks, the shadows fold around us and I send my mind back to him, a final gift. Farewell, Rushton-love.
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