All The Warm Lives, part 3: Apprehension

Rated R because Sarscha.

Osanna woke early the next morning, before the first rays of the Dawnflower had graced the sky. Laying on her side, she shifted slightly in her bed, sensing a presence behind her. She sat up, slowly and silently, and glanced over her shoulder; Glenn was fast asleep on the opposite side of the bed, laying on the edge of the mattress, his back toward her.

The tiefling turned slowly so that she was facing him, watching him for several moments. He looked peaceful and content for the moment, sleeping quietly, although she knew he would not be once he woke. Her heart ached painfully, knowing there was little she could do to comfort him during this painful time – worse, that she had probably inadvertently added to his suffering with her misplaced words the night before.

You could mount him up and take him, Sarscha whispered. He could probably use a nice, hard fuck right about now–

Osanna sighed as she slipped out of the bed, quickly crossing the bedroom floor to the mirror in the corner of the room. Hanging off one corner of the frame was her halo, which she snatched up and lightly leveled above her head; it hung just above her horns, magically suspended in place.

Uttering another quiet sigh, this time in relief, Osanna paused to stare at herself in the mirror. Her reflection looked back at her; her yellow horns neatly trimmed, her flaming hair hanging loosely around her face and shoulders and falling nearly to her tail, her lavender skin smooth and unmarred. Her golden eyes almost seemed to glow in the darkness. She looked nothing like what she had seen in the mirror in the sitting room the night before.

You…can’t…get rid…of me…completely, Sarscha rasped.

Osanna knew Sarscha was right, even if she would never acknowledge her demon half’s provocations. Sarscha was just as much a part of her as the moon was part of the sky, opposing the sun; there could be no light without shadows. Osanna had spent her life keeping Sarscha sealed away inside of her, a prison for the demon that lurked in her soul. No one else except Sarenrae – and, perhaps, Osanna’s succubus mother – knew Sarscha existed; Osanna was constantly vigilant to keep her own temper at bay so as to keep Sarscha contained from those around her. The halo helped; Sarscha had less influence on her when she wore it. And yet, she felt she was less in touch with her own emotions as well when the silvery band crested her horns, which was why she removed it last night when Glenn returned. She could and had controlled Sarscha long before she had ever worn the halo, and she had wanted to speak with him freely last night, to be able to express how she truly felt about his return – and his leaving in the first place. In retrospect, she wondered if removing the halo had been wise. She had let Sarscha come dangerously close to exerting influence over her, and she feared Glenn had gotten a glimpse of the demon she had striven so hard to seal away from those she cared about.

Osanna turned away from the mirror with a frown. She dressed quickly; the dawn was fast approaching, and she had duties to attend to. Fastening Kindness to her belt around her waist, she moved toward the door to her chamber, pausing briefly to glance back toward her bed. Glenn was still asleep; he had not stirred as she had moved quietly about her bedchamber. She stepped, toe to heel, across the room toward him, gazing down at him for a moment before leaning down to kiss his temple softly. Then she turned, making her way out of the bedroom into the prayer hall, silently closing the door behind her.

* * *

Later that morning, when the sun was well above the Irespan, Osanna quietly cracked the door to her bedchamber open. It was empty; she frowned as she pushed the door further open and stepped inside.

That wretched little shit better not have left again–

Osanna looked around. Her bed was neatly made, and a small pile of items that did not belong to her – Glenn’s things – were stacked in one corner of the room. While he wasn’t here, it was clear he hadn’t left, at least not permanently, again.

Osanna turned and exited her chamber, closing the door behind her. As she was walking through the prayer hall, she spotted Ular’s bulky silhouette through the stained glass windows outside in the courtyard. She made her way toward a door off the side of the prayer hall that exited into a small garden in the side yard where the Shoanti man kept an assortment of herbs and vegetables planted.

Ah, good morning, Osanna,” Ular called as the tiefling approached. He was kneeling amid a bed of worked soil, a pile of discarded weeds stacked next to him. He sat back on his haunches as she approached. “How do you find yourself this day?”

Just fine, my friend,” Osanna replied with a nod. “And you? Busy in the garden, I see.”

Menial, boring work for a miserable, boorish peon like him.

Yes, I finished harvesting the last of the potatoes this morning.” Ular indicated to a large basket full of the tubers. “I needed to get them out of the ground before the weather got much colder. I think turnips are much better suited for growing in the colder temperatures we will be expecting in the days to come.”

How I long for Qadiran winters,” Osanna sighed. “No snow. Temperatures rarely dropping so low that one would need a cloak. A light rain would be considered inclement weather.”

Ular snorted. “You are one to complain,” he grumbled. “You just use magic to protect yourself from the cold.”

You would too, if you weren’t too stupid to make a simple cantrip work.

Says the man who’s wearing a sleeveless tunic while there’s snow on the ground,” Osanna quipped with a faint smile.

It is not that cold yet,” Ular said gruffly, turning back to his task. He dug a trowel into the dirt before him, digging up a mass of weedy roots and tossing them onto the pile next to him. “Tis early in the season still.”

Osanna paused to watch the Shoanti before continuing. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen Glenn this morning?”

Ular dug another mass of weeds out of the soil, shaking loose dirt off of them before tossing them onto the pile. He glanced back at Osanna. “So it’s true? Rhett said he saw him last night. He has returned?”

Yes,” Osanna murmured, shifting her weight from one foot to another, “although he seems to have stepped out again.”

Ah, you know how Glenn is,” Ular said, turning back to his task again, “it is easy to lose track of him. He is like the shadows, always moving with the light.” There was a pause before Ular added, “I am glad he is back. I have missed him – he was always a good friend. And not a half bad cook, either.”

I hope he’s not referring to the slop that pissant used to pass off as food.

Yes, it will be nice to have him around again,” Osanna agreed. “Would you like me to take those potatoes into the larder for you?”

Please,” Ular said with a nod, wiping a bit of sweat off his brow before digging into the dirt with his trowel again.

Osanna hefted the basket up onto one shoulder, turning back toward the temple. She paused briefly before reaching the door. “I may have a project for you and him to work on together…if he agrees to it.”

I hope he does,” Ular grunted, yanking a particularly thick mass of weeds out of the dirt. “What is it?”

I’ll let you know when I’ve got a bit more progress on it, and once I get a chance to talk to him about it,” Osanna said, turning back toward the door to the cathedral.

Keep me posted.”

* * *

Zelia scurried across her apartment, haphazardly throwing her cherry-red hair into a messy ponytail, a bit of bread and cheese sticking out of her mouth as she attempted to chew the rest of her lunch. Keys, keys, where are my keys? Dris is going to explode if I don’t get downstairs soon–

As she pushed a stack of dirty dishes aside on her kitchen counter, furiously hunting for her missing keys, she heard a soft knock on her door.

I’m coming, Dris, I’ll be right down!” she called, nearly upending the stack of dishes in her haste. She turned toward the table in the kitchen, finally spotting the corner of a bit of metal sticking out from an upturned cup. Snatching for it, she knocked the cup over, sending it clattering across the floor just as the knock sounded again on the door.

By the Drunken Hero, Dris, I said I’m coming!” Zelia said, exasperated, reaching for the cup as it rolled across the floor.

Um…Zelia?” came a voice from the landing outside her apartment, and Zelia knew it wasn’t Dris.

She paused, setting the cup back on the table before walking over toward the door. “Who is it?”

It’s me, Zelia…Glenn.”

Zelia stared at the door for a moment before unlocking it and flinging it open. Glenn stood on the landing, although if he hadn’t just announced himself, Zelia wasn’t sure she would have recognized him. He was thinner than she remembered, his clothes hugging his body and accentuating his small frame. He was wearing a long-sleeved tunic and matching pair of trousers, a fur-lined vest and gloves offering protection against the winter chill. A thick scarf was wrapped around his neck several times, although he sported none of the jewelry or baubles she had come accustom to seeing him wear when she had seen him in the past. Most surprising, though, was his hair, which was shorter than she had ever seen it; it hung just around his ears, and he had a narrow, well-trimmed goatee cut along his chin. His eyes, normally bright and vibrant and full of joy, looked tired and sad, although he offered her a genuine smile when she opened the door. “By the gods,” Zelia gasped, returning the smile, “it really is you!”

Hi, Zellie,” Glenn said, “I hope you don’t mind me dropping in like this–”

Of course I don’t!” Zelia said, wrapping her arms around him and hugging him tightly. He hesitated for a moment before returning the embrace. “I’ve been worried – when did you get back into town?”

Just last night,” Glenn replied with a small sigh. He held her close for a moment longer before pulling away, and Zelia stepped back into her apartment, holding the door open for him.

Do you want to come inside? I’m sorry the place is a mess,” she called over her shoulder, stacking a couple empty cups along with the one that had fallen on the floor up together on the counter next to the plates she had nearly knocked over.

It’s fine, don’t worry about it,” Glenn said, taking a step inside and glancing around as he closed the door behind him. “I don’t want to keep you, it sounded like you were on your way out–”

Psh, I’m already late, Dris can wait a few more minutes for me to get downstairs,” Zelia dismissed, waving a hand.

Oh…do you work in the tavern down there?” Glenn asked. “I guess I never realized…”

Yeah,” Zelia grinned, pulling out the last two clean mugs she had in the back of the cupboard above the sink and pointing toward a bottle on the table. “Want a quick drink before I start my shift?”

Ah…no, that’s okay,” Glenn said, shaking his head. “I, ah…I actually was wondering if I could…if I could stay with you for a couple of days.”

Zelia set the cups down on the table and blinked at him, not quite sure how to respond immediately, and he looked suddenly embarrassed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to put you out,” he said quickly, “I can find some place else–”

No – no, of course you can,” Zelia said, grinning, “I just don’t have a lot of room, that’s all.”

Oh…that’s fine,” Glenn said, glancing around the apartment again. “Believe me, I’ve slept in worse conditions. Much worse. I just need a place to stay for a few days until I figure out what…what I’m going to do.”

Yeah…no problem,” Zelia nodded. “You’re welcome here any time.”

Thanks, Zellie,” Glenn said, offering her another tired but earnest smile. “I left most of my stuff at…the place I stayed last night, so I’ll come back once I go grab it. I don’t have much.”

Help yourself to anything in the cupboards,” Zelia said, making her way across the apartment toward the door. “I’m afraid I don’t have much to eat, but there’s plenty to drink. Just stop in the tavern when you get back and I can give you the key.”

I appreciate it, Zellie,” Glenn replied, following her out of the apartment.

Zelia nodded, pausing to lock the door behind them once they had both vacated the dwelling, then glancing back at Glenn. “It’s good to see you, Glenn. Maybe we can have that drink after my shift tonight and catch up.”

Glenn stared at her for a moment, and Zelia could see just how much he really had changed since she had first met him several years ago, when he and Lena were stupid and young. Could she blame him? She knew what he had been through. “Thanks, Zellie,” he muttered with a sigh, “you have no idea how much that means to me right now.”

* * *

The sun had not yet started to dip back down below the Irespan when Osanna returned to the temple later that afternoon. Normally she would have stayed out later – she kept herself busy these days, working on projects in the Underbridge district, rubbing shoulders with commoners, nobles, Hellknights, and everyone in between, and generally making her presence known throughout Magnimar. However, she wanted to stay close to home today, in case her presence there was needed more.

She noted that her bedroom door was open, and sensed a presence within the chamber as she approached. As she stepped into the doorway, her eyes were immediately drawn to the corner, where a figure was crouched, and for a moment, Osanna opened her mouth to demand who he was as she did not recognize him. Just as she was about to speak, however, he glanced over his shoulder, and Osanna realized with a start that it was Glenn.

Oh – oh!” she said, quickly closing her mouth. She stared at him for a moment, taking in his appearance. He had cut his hair – it was still messy and unkempt, as she had always remembered it, but it hung just around his ears, framing his thin face pleasantly. He had also gotten rid of the mess of the beard he’d been sporting when he showed up the night before, although a narrow goatee remained. The clothes she had given him the night before were gone, replaced by garments that were both more appropriate for the season, and better fitting for him; while Osanna couldn’t actively see his ribs through the tunic and vest he wore, she was still painfully aware of how thin he had become since she had last seen him. “You’re looking much better,” the tiefling said, her tail swishing happily across the floor behind her.

He did clean up nicely for looking like such a filthy piece of shit last night, Sarscha sneered.

Ah…” Glenn started, turning his back toward her again. He was crouched in the corner, over what Osanna recognized as his haversack, which he closed the flap on before standing to face her. “Thank you.”

How are you feeling?” Osanna asked after a moment.

All right,” Glenn replied, turning briefly to pick up his pack. “Better than last night.” He shouldered the haversack, and Osanna realized suddenly that all of his items must be packed in it – her room was devoid of any of the things he had left there earlier. His sword was strapped across his back, and he wore a few of the magical items that Osanna so recognized from the time they had traveled together, including the Sarenite ring that matched her own.

I’m glad,” she murmured, studying him. Neither of them moved or spoke, but after a moment, Glenn glanced away with a frown. “You’re leaving again, aren’t you?” Osanna whispered.

Don’t…LET…HIM– Sarscha rasped. I will turn his skin into a new pair of gloves if he leaves again–

Yes,” Glenn replied, avoiding her gaze.

May I know where you’re going this time?” Osanna asked, keeping her voice level, trying to push down the emotions that were threatening to well up inside of her.

I’ll be in town,” Glenn said flatly, turning to look back at her as he crossed his arms in front of him. She could see some of that look returning to his eyes – that look she recognized, but that she had never seen directed at her, until last night. “I’m staying with a friend.”

Okay. Good,” Osanna said with a nod as Glenn started toward the door. She stepped out of his way, but as he moved passed her, she murmured, “You’re angry with me.”

Glenn paused next to her, half glancing at her but avoiding her eyes. “I’m not sure how I feel about you right now, Osanna.”

I…I wanted to apologize,” Osanna pressed on before he could step passed her out of the room. “Some of the things I said last night were…uncalled for. My words were born from anger and disdain, during a time when they should have been comforting and understanding.” She realized he was looking at her, and she locked eyes with him as she continued. “I let my temper take control of me during the worst possible moment, and for that, I’m sorry.”

Glenn stared at her for a moment, a mixture of hurt and confusion in his eyes. He hesitated a moment before responding. “I appreciate you saying that,” he murmured, turning away from her again and stepping out of the room. “I need some time.”

I understand,” Osanna replied. “I’ll be here when…if you’re ready to return.”

Glenn nodded once by way of reply. Osanna sighed faintly as she watched him cross the prayer hall and make his way out of the temple.

* * *

Zelia yawned widely as she made her way up the steps toward the landing outside her apartment. She was glad she was not closing at the tavern tonight, but it was still late enough as it was, nearing midnight as she slid the key into the lock and pushed her door open.

Her apartment was dark and silent as she quietly stepped inside. “Glenn?” she called softly as she locked the door behind her. She couldn’t tell upon first glance into the apartment if he was there or not, although in the last four nights he had stayed with her, the only places he had ventured out to beyond her apartment were the tavern where she worked in order to meet her for a drink, and the nearby market to buy some food for her pantry.

The apartment remained silent, so Zelia quietly made her way to the table in the kitchen and lit a candle, glancing around. The place certainly was cleaner than it had been in a while; Glenn had taken the time to do her dishes and straighten up in general since he had been staying with her. Zelia felt a little bad about the state of her apartment when he had first arrived, but he didn’t seem to mind.

As the candle flickered shadows across the kitchen, Zelia made her way to the bedroom. The door was cracked open, and the half-elf pushed it further inward silently. Glenn was fast asleep on the floor next to her bed, his head resting on his arms, a single blanket thrown over his form. Idiot, Zelia thought with a sigh as she closed the door behind her, making her way back to the kitchen, I told him he could use the bed when I wasn’t here.

It was half an hour later when a sharp knock came on Zelia’s door. She had poured herself a drink and was having a late night snack of dried fish and fruit at her kitchen table when she looked up suddenly. “Dris?” she called curiously. It was awfully late for her employer to be coming to call now, but it had been known to happen before. “Is that you?”

Is this the residence of Zelia Fiar?” came a commanding voice that Zelia didn’t recognize from the landing outside her door.

Zelia set her drink down and swiftly stood up. “Who the hell wants to know?” she demanded, staring wide-eyed at the door.

By command of the Order of the Nail, open this door immediately,” the voice continued firmly.

Zelia felt her heart skip a beat. The Hellknights!? What in the Nine Hells do they want with me!? Could it be that bottle of rum I took from the tavern – no, Dris wouldn’t call the damn Hellknights on me over a stupid bottle of rum – or –

There was another sharp knock on the door, breaking into Zelia’s train of thoughts suddenly. “Open this door immediately, or we shall open it for you.”

Zelia stared at the bolted door for a moment longer before swallowing hard and making her way across the apartment. She unlocked the door and cracked it open; three men stood on the landing before her. Two of them were dressed in red plate armor including matching helms that completely concealed their faces. The third, who stood at the fore of the group, wore armor of the deepest black, so dark that it made him almost invisible in the night, although his head was uncovered, revealing an angular face and a pair of piercing, cold blue eyes. His blond hair was held away from his face in a tight ponytail at the nape of his neck. He stared down coolly at Zelia for a moment as he silently pushed the door the rest of the way open. “Zelia Fiar?”

Um,” Zelia replied, shrinking slightly before the Hellknight.

We understand that this is the current residence of Glenn Midori,” the Hellknight continued without waiting for a reply. He glanced past Zelia into her apartment, his eyes scanning the interior of the dwelling.

Wh-what?” Zelia gasped, her eyes going wide again.

Is he here?”

Wh—no!” Zelia cried suddenly. “No, he isn’t! Why do you want to know?” She crossed her arms in front of her, standing in the doorway before the Hellknight.

So you are aware that he is in Magnimar?” the Hellknight asked, his eyes returning to Zelia’s, and she felt herself shrink again as he stared at her. “You’ve seen him?”

Dammit. “I – no, I –” Zelia stammered.

Zellie?” came a voice from further inside the apartment.

No, NO – dammit –

Ah, Glenn,” the Hellknight said with a frown as Glenn appeared from the bedroom. “So you are here.”

Zelia glanced over her shoulder as Glenn stepped across the apartment toward the door. He matched the Hellknight’s frown, holding his sheathed sword cautiously in one hand. “Samael,” he said slowly as he stepped up behind Zelia. “What are you doing here?”

I came to find you, actually,” the Hellknight replied, staring at Glenn. “I need you to come with me.”

How did you find me?” Glenn asked. He gently placed a hand on Zelia’s shoulder, and she felt him guide her behind him as he stepped into the doorway in front of her.

I’ll be asking the questions tonight, Glenn,” the Hellknight replied. “Do you know why I’m here?”

I have a pretty good idea,” Glenn muttered. Zelia felt him stiffen slightly, and she could feel her heart racing hard.

Then let’s make this easy. Come with me to the Bastion of the Nail. There’s no need to cause an unnecessary disturbance here.”

Glenn hesitated for a moment before responding. “Very well.”

Glenn, wait – what are you –“ Zelia started, grabbing the hand not holding his sword.

Glenn Midori, you are hereby under arrest for breaking and entering, assault, and kidnapping,” Samael announced. “You understand I must relieve you of your weapon.”

Zelia saw Glenn’s frown deepen. “You know what kind of power this sword has, Samael,” he whispered as he handed the sword to the Hellknight.

I understand,” Samael replied, taking the sword. “I’m afraid I also must bind your hands.”

Glenn snorted. “You Hellknights are nothing if not dramatic.”

It’s simply protocol, I assure you,” Samael said flatly, nodding toward one of the other men standing behind him. The other Hellknight stepped forward and took Glenn by the shoulder, spinning him around; Zelia felt his hand slip out of her own as the Hellknight pinned his arms behind his back and began to bind Glenn’s wrists with a pair of manacles.

As he was facing into the apartment, Glenn and Zelia stared at each other for a moment. “Glenn–” she started, but he offered her a small smile as the Hellknight finished fastening the manacles with a sharp snap.

It’s fine, Zelia,” Glenn said. “Don’t worry. Thanks for letting me stay with you for a few days – sorry to cause such a mess.”

Don’t be ridiculous!” Zelia cried as the Hellknights began to lead him out of her apartment. She gasped and followed them out onto the landing, watching as they took him down the stairs and into the dark street. “I’ll – I’ll try to come see you soon – or get you out of there if I can – or something!”

Thanks, Zellie,” Glenn called as he disappeared with the Hellknights into the darkness.

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