Chapter 71Of Dress and Darkess

It was weird. Time had shifted rather oddly around all these events. While some moments only crawled past, waiting for midnight didn't take longer than the blink of an eye. The castle felt empty at the late hour. I knew it wasn't though, people were present all over the castle, just inside of their rooms or at work in rooms I would not venture through.

It didn't make it any less spooky though.

Deirdre didn't follow closely behind me. She took another route (through the servant's quarters) to our destination. By my own calculations, she would actually arrive before me. It wasn't that strange, really. Most castles were build in a way that servants could get around more easily. And this castle was no exception.

While I walked I thought of the strange evening we had. Deirdre and I, usually quite talkative, were too preoccupied with everything to speak over dinner. But, we did make a plan for tonight. I explained her as much of the castle as I knew and discussed where she would hide to view over the meeting. There was a small worry if we would move from that location to talk somewhere else. But it felt unlikely.

The thing that wandered my thoughts the most was the question of who. Who would I be seeing. The term 'abomination' didn't sound like one used by the Cult itself. If they really were here. Deidre's descriptions had been a tad vague on the matter. Describing grey-robes and tattooed hands. But it was as good evidence as any.

Most of the students wore swords with them at all times. For various purposes. Some thought it would make them look good. Others like to be able to spar whenever they felt to. of course swords were still used as a focus point and in a lot of preparations. Also, as it was required to wear a sword when going out of the compound, it was easier to have one anyway. Nothing was more annoying for a lazy student than to have to go back to the room to retrieve it.

In other words, I had my sword at my side.

I felt I was bursting with energy though. I had to concentrate to keep the gems from reacting. When I stepped out of the main hall into the courtyard, I took a deep breath and calmed down. I wanted to prevent any proof of my duality to whomever I was going to meet here. I could always say that I came out of curiosity or mistrust. One is not easily accused an abomination. Despite, of course, children using it to insult.

One I, fortunately, wasn't accustomed to.

The stables were of course lit only by two torches when I arrived. Only the gate and walls were guarded at this hour. Which made sense. Guard the outside and most of the inside should be safe. I looked around if I could see Deirdre, but she had hid herself very well. There was little sound out here. Most of the sounds of the city, mostly from the numerous inns, brushed over the walls but didn't reach this low.

A pool of quiet, away from most of the light. Waiting for fate to catch up with me.

I snickered at myself. I should be a poet.

Okay, so all of this was nerves. I really wasn't sure who was going to meet me.

"Ah, you're here."

Someone in a dark hooded robe and a raspy voice stepped into the light. The light reflecting on his robe actually made me wonder what it was made of. It looked expensive in a way. Not a lot of fabrics were that nicely painted black. It was stupid of me to even pay attention to that. The guy in the robe was quite thin, but not unhealthily so. It was hard to see much of his face. It looked old, maybe fifty years old, from what I could see. But his eyes glimmered darkly.

I decided to reply. "Yes. Did you ask me here?"

The man nodded. His voice again raspy and cold. "You are Taran, correct?"

I hesitated to answer but I wanted to see this through. "Yes."

"You have brought some trouble our way. We'd like to thank you for that."

I blinked. A very unusual way of saying it. "Like what?"

The man smiled, his lips barely visible in the shadows of his hood. "We'd like to start with a gift of friendship. We have this rare sea creature for you."

He held up his hand, encapsulated in black leather gloves, holding a small spiky round thing. It reflected the light quite interestingly as if the surface of the sphere and the spikes was covered by a thin layer of oil. It was quite mesmerizing to look at. I moved closer and held out my hand to receive the object.

Deirdre suddenly came like a ghost from the shadows.

She had her knife drawn and stabbed the man in his hand, right through the object he was holding.

She held her knife in place, holding the man's hand in her control while she looked at me. "It's a trap, this thing is very dangerous."

I looked at her, one word was enough. "How?"

"Poison."