“It seems you have quite a way with words, Lady Redbreeze,” Paralictor Halst commented, holding the door open to an office room in the back of the Bastion of the Nail as Osanna stepped through. Glenn followed, still being escorted by one of the other Hellknights who had accompanied them to the Pediment Building for his sentencing hearing. “This is not the first time you have managed to convince the Justices to release a convicted criminal to your custody.”
“I simply state the truth,” Osanna replied as Halst shut the door behind their party. The Paralictor made his way to the opposite side of a heavy wooden desk that dominated the center of the chamber, setting several sheafs of parchment down before him and picking up a pair of reading glasses.
“We have a few things to go over before either of you can go,” Halst stated as he slipped the glasses over his nose, glancing up at first Osanna, then Glenn with a small frown. “The Justices have voted not to remand you to the Hells, but that does not mean you are simply free to do as you please,” the Paralictor continued, settling his gaze on the man bound before him. “First, you are–”
“Excuse me, Paralictor,” Osanna cut in suddenly. Both Glenn and the Hellknight commander glanced at her, Halst frowning slightly at being interrupted. “Pardon me for interrupting, but – are the manacles really necessary at this point?” She motioned toward the shackles that bound Glenn’s hands before him.
Halst looked momentarily annoyed. “I suppose not,” he conceded after a pause. He nodded toward the Hellknight who had escorted Glenn back to the Bastion. The man stepped forward and unfastened the binds from around Glenn’s wrists.
“Um, thanks,” Glenn muttered, glancing up toward the Hellknight’s helmed face as he rubbed his wrists; a thin, angry red line braceleted his skin. The Hellknight didn’t respond as he stepped back.
“Thank you. You are dismissed,” Halst ordered, and the Hellknight nodded silently before disappearing out of the room. Halst waited until the door closed before continuing. “Now, as I was saying,” he started again, looking pointedly at Osanna, “Mr. Midori, you will be discharged from our custody this afternoon but will be under a probationary period in accordance with the Justice Court. This probationary period will be for,” the Paralictor paused briefly to consult the top sheet of paper he had set upon his desk, “four months. During this time, you are not allowed to leave Magnimar, and you are required to present yourself here at the Bastion of the Nail twice a week, every Moonday and Oathsday. You are also required to wear this.” He opened a drawer in the side of his desk, pulling out a small object and holding it between his thumb and forefinger. It appeared to be an unremarkable iron ring; several nail-like points were engraved into the metal, forming a sunburst, the crest of the Order of the Nail.
“What is it?” Glenn asked, feeling slightly apprehensive.
“A prisoner’s ring,” Halst announced. “It is linked to a warden’s ring, which one of us wears at all times. With it, we will be able to discern your exact location; we will know if you have left the city, and where you have gone. Give me your hand.” Glenn hesitated a moment, then stepped toward the desk and held out his right hand toward the Hellknight commander. Halst grasped his wrist in one hand, slipping the ring onto Glenn’s middle finger; Glenn could feel the ring shrink to fit around his finger, the cool metal clamping down around his skin. “You will not be able to remove it until your probationary period has ended,” Halst continued, releasing Glenn’s wrist. “If you try,” Halst warned, “we will know. Leaving the city, or attempting to take the ring off, or breaking the law in any capacity, will result in your immediate remand to the Hells.”
“He’s not going anywhere,” Osanna said flatly. Glenn could sense her glance at him, but avoided her gaze, instead staring stubbornly at the floor; he could see the tiefling’s tail switching back and forth across the cool stonework, recognizing agitation in its erratic movement. “And he’s not about to misbehave again.” She didn’t say it, but Glenn could practically hear her add, Not under my watch, and felt himself scowl despite himself.
He should be grateful. Osanna had saved him, once again, from a terrible fate – potentially even death – wasting away inside the Hells for who knows how long. But that was just it – she had saved him. Again. Time and again, she’d had to come to his rescue. That was fine. He’d learned to accept help when it was offered to him, despite his somewhat stubborn nature to the contrary; Sir Warren and Helena had helped him plenty of times, and he had never scorned them. But it was the way Osanna rubbed his face in it. Reminded him, often, of how many times she’d saved his life from the jaws of death or worse. She claimed she didn’t want anything in return, but if that was true, why did she have to keep reminding him? The night he returned to Magnimar. When she came to visit him in the Bastion. So often when they had been battling against Karzoug’s forces. She treated him – and the rest of the Heroes of Sandpoint – like children to be coddled. What was it that Ameiko had even nicknamed her? Mother Hen…
Suddenly Glenn understood why the others didn’t bother to keep in touch with her after they had vanquished Karzoug all those months ago.
“For your own sake, Lady Redbreeze, you had better hope so.” Halst’s voice drew Glenn out of his own rumination. “As you are well aware, since you vouched for him, his actions during his probation will reflect on you. Any misdeeds that he does commit will be your responsibility as well as his.”
“I understand,” Osanna replied. Glenn could still sense her gaze trained on him, and still refused to meet it. It didn’t really bother him that they were talking openly about him while he was standing right there; he was simply trying to keep himself from saying something he thought he might regret later on. “But as I said, that’s not about to happen.”
“Good. I think that’s everything, then. I trust you understand the terms of your probation, Mr. Midori?” Halst asked, turning to Glenn with an arched eyebrow.
“Yes,” Glenn replied immediately, looking up at the Hellknight.
“Very well. We’ll see you back here in two days, on the next Moonday.” Halst waved a hand dismissively as he sat in a high-backed, stiff, wooden chair behind his desk. “Maralictor Gaetana will see you out.”
“Thank you, Paralictor,” Osanna said, nodding once to the Hellknight commander before turning toward the door to hold it open for Glenn. He stepped into the hallway without looking at her, although he could feel her place a hand lightly on his shoulder as she began to follow him, and he purposely began walking a little faster to slip out of her grasp.
The two of them walked silently through the halls of the Bastion until they reached the lobby, where Maralictor Gaetana seemed to be waiting for them, seated behind her own desk. “If you could just sign this,” she said presenting Glenn with a piece of parchment along with a quill and ink. It seemed to be some kind of form acknowledging the terms of his probation. Glenn skimmed it briefly before signing his name at the bottom.
“And you, Lady Redbreeze,” Gaetana added, turning to Osanna as Glenn returned the quill to the inkwell. Osanna followed suit, signing her name next to Glenn’s before stepping back from the maralictor’s desk. “I believe everything is in order,” Gaetana said, placing the parchment inside a leatherbound ledger. She reached behind her desk, pulling out a haversack that Glenn recognized as his own and setting it down before her. “Your belongings.”
Glenn stepped forward again to grab the pack, shouldering it. He hesitated, but Gaetana offered nothing more, and suddenly Glenn felt a little panicked. “Um, where’s my sword?” Even with the haversack’s magical enchantment that allowed it to hold more than it appeared to be able to, Redemption wouldn’t fit properly inside it – and Glenn had felt particularly vulnerable ever since he’d had to relinquish it to Samael nearly two weeks ago. The thought that something might have happened to it–
“I have it,” came Osanna’s reply from behind him. “It’s at the temple.”
“Oh.” Glenn felt himself relax slightly, but an awkward pause filled the small lobby until Gaetana spoke again.
“You are free to go, for now. A good afternoon to both of you.”
“And to you, Maralictor,” Osanna replied before turning toward the door.
A moment later, the two of them were standing in the snow on the street outside the Bastion of the Nail. Glenn squinted, as he had done during his transit from the Hellknight outpost to the Pediment Building and back; after nearly two weeks in total darkness, the Dawnflower’s brilliant rays were intense, almost painful against his eyes. He raised his hand up to shield his eyes as Osanna spoke. “You’ll get used to Her radiance again soon enough,” she said softly.
“Yeah,” he agreed, blinking back tears as his eyes watered slightly. He wasn’t sure what else to say, but Osanna had already started walking in the direction of the Underbridge district, the snow crunching loudly under her mailed boots. Glenn hesitated for a moment, but he had nowhere better to go for the time being, and fell into step silently a few paces behind her, keeping his head bent downward against the sun. He had to stop by the temple to get his sword, at the very least.
Glenn was just contemplating where he was actually going to go next when Osanna said, “I moved the acolytes into the library downstairs. Yservielle is around infrequently enough that they should be able to share the space with her.”
“What?” Glenn asked, glancing up at her back. The remark caught him off-guard, and he didn’t understand the full meaning of it until she continued.
“Of course, you don’t have to stay at the temple.” The tiefling glanced over her shoulder at him without breaking stride; she had a strange look on her face that Glenn didn’t quite recognize, especially through his watering eyes. “The terms of your release don’t require you to live there. But…the room is yours if you want it. And…I was hoping…”
“GLENN!” Before Osanna could finish whatever thought she had been in the middle of, a flurry of red hair suddenly tackled into Glenn, nearly sending him sprawling down into the snow. If the figure hadn’t been small enough for him to easily catch – and knowing that the tiefling would never stoop to do something so undignified, especially in public – Glenn would have thought it was Osanna herself until the newcomer spoke again. “You’re alright! You made it out!”
“Whoa, Zelia!” Glenn gasped, stumbling backward before he was able to regain his footing and catch Zelia around the middle. The half-elf laughed, hugging him tightly, and Glenn couldn’t help but smile as he returned the embrace. Despite everything that had happened, she was still here, standing by him, happy to see him free. Had she been present for the entire sentencing hearing? Had she heard everything the Asmodean priest had said? “It’s good to see you, Zellie,” Glenn murmured.
“Me! What about you!” Zelia cried, taking a step back to examine him with a grin. “I wasn’t sure if we’d ever see you again after those Hellknights hauled you out of my apartment that night! I tried to come visit you, but they wouldn’t let me–” She stood up straight, crossing her arms stiffly and lowering her voice to mimic the severe demeanor of a member of the Order of the Nail. “The prisoner is in solitary confinement. No visitors allowed!” Glenn thought she sounded remarkably like Samael for a moment.
“You should join them,” he remarked dryly as she relaxed her posture, “you’d fit right in.”
“Pah!” Zelia rolled her eyes. “Bunch of stuffy old lumps of coal, how could I possibly have any fun around them?” She grinned again. “So do you still need a place to stay for a while? I know it’s kinda small, but the apartment is still open if you need it.”
“Er,” Glenn said, once again caught off-guard. His eyes flickered sideways to Osanna, who had been standing quietly a short distance away while he and Zelia exchanged greetings, before returning to the half-elf. “We, er, were just discussing that, actually.”
“Oh?” Zelia said, then followed his gaze as Osanna took a step forward. “Oh! It’s you. You were at the Pediment Building.”
Osanna smiled. “As the Lord Justice said, I seem to be becoming something of a regular there. Osanna Redbreeze. You must be Zelia.”
The half-elf shook Osanna’s hand as she offered it, looking at her curiously. “Yes…have we met?”
“Briefly, perhaps, some time ago,” Osanna replied. “Glenn has spoken of you.”
“Oh,” Zelia said, looking at Glenn in mild surprise.
“Ah…” Glenn started, shuffling his boot in the snow uncomfortably for a moment. He’d talked to Zelia about his time with the other Heroes before, although only briefly; he had known the half-elf before he got tangled up in any of the Runelord business, back when he was a simple commoner – or thief, as Corvitus had so explicitly pointed out – living in Magnimar, and he had tried and mostly been successful at keeping those two parts of his life separated, at least for a while. Perhaps some part of him had wished he could go back to that life that he used to have, before he met Osanna and the others, but he knew it was impossible. Reuniting with Helena had been proof of that. And it was only a matter of time before Zelia, too, was bound to inevitably cross ways with Osanna at the very least, now that Glenn was back in Magnimar. “Osanna was one of…one of the ones who brought me back. From Abaddon.”
“Oh. Right.” Zelia knew the story, and Glenn was grateful she didn’t press him for more details at the moment.
There was another pause before Osanna continued. “Like I said, Glenn, you don’t have to stay at the temple. You are free to stay with your –“ She hesitated, glancing at Zelia, but the half-elf beamed immediately.
“Don’t worry, we’re just friends,” she explained. Glenn wasn’t entirely sure if that was where Osanna had been going with that line of conversation, but he didn’t argue with either of them.
“Well, uh, I have to stop by the temple either way,” Glenn said, avoiding the issue of where he was going to stay for the moment since he hadn’t entirely made up his mind. “Osanna has a few of my things.” He glanced between the two of them before continuing, “Did…did anyone else show up?”
“Bill did,” Osanna replied at once. Her lips were pressed into a thin line and her tail twitched behind her.
“Yeah, he was hard to miss,” Glenn muttered. “I thought for sure he was going to get himself arrested – or me thrown in jail. What about Xander, or Naru, or…” His voice trailed off, although he glanced at Zelia almost hopefully. There was one person in particular he had hoped would be there, and he knew that if she was, Zelia would know, but the half-elf seemed to be intentionally avoiding his eye.
“Apparently Samael is taking care of Hellknight business, as they said – although what, in particular, I’m not sure. I’ll be having a chat with him about that next time I see him. I’m sure Naru is flitting about the forest somewhere and who knows what Xander is about these days.” Osanna counted each of their companions off on her fingers as she named them. Glenn continued to watch Zelia out of the corner of his eye, but she still didn’t respond.
“I haven’t seen him in Sandpoint in a while,” came a voice from behind the three of them, and Glenn turned to see Bill floating, cross-legged, a few feet above the street toward them. “And you should know better than to think I’d go so far as to get myself thrown in jail, Glenn.”
“What about me!?” Glenn cried, crossing his arms as he turned to face the wizard. He could almost feel Osanna smiling behind him.
“Oh, you’re fine, obviously. I told you Osanna would get you out of there.”
There it was again. Osanna to the rescue, as always.
Glenn was scowling, and Osanna must have been able to sense his peevish temper, for before he could reply, she suggested, “We were just on our way to the temple. Zelia, Bill, would you like to join us? Perhaps we could all have dinner together afterword. To celebrate Glenn’s freedom.”
A celebratory dinner. That was exactly what Glenn wanted right now. But the thought of a hot meal after days of the slop the Hellknights had been feeding him was tempting.
Twenty minutes later, Osanna pushed the doors to the Temple of Sarenrae open, standing aside and holding them for the others as they filed in. In nicer weather, Glenn knew the doors would be propped open, welcoming to any and all who might come to pay respect to the Dawnflower, seek the shelter of Her house, or ask for healing or guidance from Osanna or one of the clerics within. In the winter, however, they simply had to make do with leaving the doors unlocked and keeping the orb that the statue of Sarenrae herself held lit at all hours, an invitation for any to enter even at the darkest hour.
Glenn glanced around as Zelia and Bill walked in behind him. He could sense Zelia marveling at the temple as she gazed around; it was the half-elf’s first time here, and the House of the Dawnflower did have a rather breathtaking affect on newcomers. To Glenn, it hadn’t changed much. That wasn’t to say it wasn’t a welcome sight after the bleak chamber of the Bastion he had occupied for the last ten days. He had resided here before for a time, when he and the other Heroes were on their campaign against Karzoug’s forces. But it had never really felt like home. This was Osanna’s home…he felt like an intruder here. A trespasser. Now more than ever.
“Bill, Zelia, could you wait here for a few minutes?” Osanna was saying, drawing Glenn’s attention back to her as she shut the door behind them. “Please, make yourselves at home. Glenn, come with me.”
Osanna walked past the others and toward the back of the prayer hall. Glenn followed her until it became apparent they were headed toward her personal chamber. She pushed the door to her bedroom open and walked inside, but Glenn hesitated in the doorway until she realized he had not followed her. “Well, don’t just stand there, come in,” Osanna said with a hint of exasperation as she turned to face him.
Glenn took a step into the room as Osanna began undoing the straps and ribbons that held her plate armor securely around her form. “I have your sword for you. I’ll get it for you in just a moment, after I take my armor off.”
Glenn hesitated, watching her for a moment as she twisted around to reach for the bands that fastened the back of her armor together. He knew she could do it on her own; he also knew how much easier it was with two people. Wordlessly, he stepped forward and deftly began unlacing the ribbons, his fingers working with practiced ease. She glanced at him before turning back around to let him work. He had done this countless times before, having helped her in and out of her armor on a daily basis when they had been on their quest together. Soon he knelt, unfastening the straps holding her greaves together and helping her step out of them before setting the armored leggings on her armor stand. Then he stood again, unbuckling her pauldrons and lifting them over her head before removing the final ribbon in her breastplate and letting it slip free from her form. He caught it, setting it on the armor stand with the rest of the suit, leaving her in a simple long-sleeved tunic and matching pair of trousers that she had been wearing beneath the mail.
“Thank you,” Osanna said, her voice barely above a whisper.
“You’re welcome,” Glenn murmured as he loosely tied the armor back together on the armor stand. When he was done, he glanced over his shoulder toward her, and she looked suddenly different. Smaller, almost, and more vulnerable. Did she always look like this after she had removed her armor? Glenn couldn’t remember. She had been so strong, so stoic in the Pediment Building, standing before the Asmodean cleric and the Justices and the Hellknights. She didn’t exactly look weak, now – not Osanna, never Osanna – just…more exposed. Glenn frowned.
“Oh, your sword,” Osanna said suddenly after they had stared at each other for a moment. She turned, kneeling before a large weapon chest set at the foot of her bed. A moment later, she withdrew the weapon Glenn had drawn from the Runewell in Runeforge – the weapon Alexander Warren had wanted him to have, a massive blade that should be awkward and unbalanced to wield, but felt as light and natural as having an extension of his own arm when he had it in hand. It was sheathed, but she held it aloft as she stood, studying it. “I’m still amused that, out of all of us, you of all people got the biggest weapon.”
Ah. There it was. The teasing – she could never leave him alone for his small stature, especially compared to how tall and broad framed she herself was. And with the teasing came the constant reminder of how frequently she had to carry him, or save him, or–
“It’s proportional to the size of your heart,” Osanna remarked with a smile as she held the weapon out to him.
Glenn stared at her for a moment, unsure how to respond, or even what to think. He never did understand why she had invested so much time and trust in him – not after everything he’d done, and continued to do. Ever since their argument the night he had returned to Magnimar, he had pushed her away at every opportunity, all but telling her he never wanted to see her again. And part of him didn’t want to see her again; the moment he had returned, seeing her standing in the fading sunlight on the temple steps, the agonizing emotions had come crashing back to him like a tempest, part of the reason he had left in the first place. Being this close to her – but not ever being able to truly be close to her – was as painful as he remembered. Maybe more so.
He didn’t doubt that she would not have gone to this much effort to free any of the others if they’d found themselves in a similar predicament, and yet he also never doubted that she would stand by his side when he asked her to – maybe even if he hadn’t.
Glenn felt his chest tighten. It had been so much easier, for the brief moment when she was angry with him. He could have just walked away, pretended there was nothing left between them, forgotten about her forever.
“I have something else of yours, as well,” Osanna continued. Glenn realized he was holding Redemption; he must have taken it from her without even realizing it. The tiefling made her way past him to a vanity table. She opened a drawer in the dresser and pulled out a small, ornately carved wooden chest, like a jewelry box. Placing the box on the vanity, she opened it, removing an item from within before turning back to face Glenn. “Here.”
Glenn took a step toward her as she held her closed fist toward him. She opened her fingers around the Sarenite ring, his match to the one he had given her all those months ago. Glenn stopped short, staring at it for a moment before looking up into the tiefling’s gaze. “You took this from the Hellknights?” They had made him remove all of his magical items, including the ring, when Samael had arrested him.
“They let me have two of your belongings,” she explained, her tail swishing back and forth behind her in a slow arc across the floor. “You asked me to make sure your sword was taken care of. I couldn’t let them keep this.”
Glenn continued to stare at her for a moment before looking back down at the ring. The light level in the room was dim, only a low fire in the fireplace providing illumination. Despite this, the flames seemed to dance off the metal band, and Glenn suddenly realized that it wasn’t his lack of sword that made him feel so vulnerable while he was imprisoned at the Bastion of the Nail.
Silently, Glenn reached out to take the ring from Osanna. As his fingers closed around the metal – surprisingly warm, despite the coolness of the season – his hand brushed against Osanna’s, and a burst of emotions flooded him suddenly. Anger, sadness, guilt. An almost overwhelming surge of something he was all too familiar with, but refused to acknowledge, that he had been trying to bury deep inside himself and ignore. He wanted to yell at her, tell her to stop believing in him so much, that he didn’t deserve her kindness or her affection. To apologize for all the stupid, painful things he had said to her recently, the way he had pushed her away. Most of all, he wanted nothing more than to hold her close and never let go, to tell her everything she meant to him, how he was only there now because of her. And not just because of all the times she had personally saved him from death when they had stood, back to back, against the worst the world had to offer.
For a brief moment, his hand closed around hers, and he looked up at her again, staring into her eyes. Her golden eyes gazed back at him, full of patience and understanding. He knew she’d want to know, all of it, the way she always did. His soul laid bare before her. He opened his mouth to say something, unsure where to begin, when he felt it – another thought that had been lurking at the edge of his consciousness, and now it threatened to shatter him.
Losing Helena was painful enough – he couldn’t go through that again. The thought of there ever being anything more between him and Osanna was overwhelming. The thought of losing her was terrifying – he knew it was more than he could bear. Glenn pulled away suddenly, turning away from her without saying anything at all.
Ironic, isn’t it?
Maybe you could have been happy, once, if she had been able to return your love before now.
But now, you are incapable of such feelings.
You destroy everything you touch. Imagine what you would do to one as pure as her.
The voices rattled around in Glenn’s mind as he stood, back toward Osanna. The Daemons were a daily reminder of his shortcomings, his failures, his sins, ever since Osanna and the others had brought him back from Abaddon. Some days the voices were quieter than others – on blissfully rare occasions, even silent – and Glenn had largely learned to distinguish them from his own thoughts. But they had a chilling way of digging into his mind and prying out his worst fears and doubts and bringing them to the surface of his thoughts, no matter how hard he tried to ignore or disbelieve them.
“So…how about dinner, then?” Osanna’s voice cut through the tirade in his head. “Are you hungry?”
“Yes,” he muttered in reply, back still toward her. She had no idea.
“Good!” She sounded pleased, and he could hear her moving about her room. “Give me just a few minutes to get ready. I know the perfect spot. I’ll be out shortly.”
“Sure,” Glenn said, relieved for an excuse to leave Osanna’s room. He hurriedly made his way back out into the prayer hall, starting toward the front of the temple, but stopped short when he saw Zelia and Bill horsing around where he and Osanna had left them. Bill was holding a cupcake aloft, floating several inches out of Zelia’s reach as she strained upward for it. The wizard looked at once annoyed and pleased with himself as the half-elf whined at him.
Glenn paused next to the statue of Sarenrae to watch the two of them from across the hall for a moment before turning to face the goddess. She stood radiantly before him, illuminated by the orb she held out before her. The statue – taller then Glenn by a head and a half – was carved out of a rich, dark red stone that the light flickered and bounced off of, giving the goddess the slight appearance that she was dancing before him. Glenn stepped around to face the statue directly, staring up at it.
“Why?” he whispered. “You told me to come back here, didn’t you? But what for? I don’t understand.” Truth be told, he wasn’t sure if the voice that spoke to him at times was Sarenrae or not. But there was a voice, an entity that whispered to him through the darkness, helped him distinguish his own thoughts from the Daemon’s taunts, showed him light when there was none. When he had felt he had nothing left – Helena gone, Dannika dead, alone with nothing in the world to live for – the entity had guided him back here. The loneliness had been oppressive; it was an experience he and Osanna had spoken of at times in the past, a sensation of emptiness so crushing that it was at first overbearingly painful. But the vacuum of isolation had eventually dulled his feelings to almost nothing, and that had been preferable to the constant ache he felt now. At least when he had been alone, he had grown numb to the pain of everything that had happened; now his anguish had returned twofold, redoubled in intensity to the point that sometimes he couldn’t breath and thought the weight would suffocate him like a vice.
“Is this what you brought me back here for?” Glenn asked, staring up into the eyes of the statue before him. Sarenrae stared forward, her face carved smooth and perfect out of the red stone, eyes unblinking, expression calm. Glenn felt hot anger rising in his chest; he gripped the ring that Osanna had given back to him in his fist, his fingers digging roughly into the palm of his hand. No voices spoke to him now.
The next few hours went by mostly in a blur. Osanna led them to a small but lively tavern not far from the temple, The Marred Rune. Glenn recognized the building as once being an abandoned manor house the last time he had been in the city. The building had been repurposed, as had so many since the paladin had started her efforts to restore the Underbridge district, and now appeared to be a rather popular evening joint for the locals. A group of dwarves was busying themselves tossing hatchets into empty ale barrels in one corner of the spacious dining room that seemed to have been cleared for just such a purpose, and the bar itself that ran the entire length of one wall was nearly full to capacity by the time the foursome walked in. Discarded peanut shells littered the floor, and the smell of ale mixed with freshly split wood and smoke from a cookfire somewhere in the back of the building permeating the establishment.
Glenn found himself seated at a cozy, round table tucked in the corner opposite the hatchet-throwing dwarves, although he was only half paying attention to the activity, and conversation, around him. Osanna ordered wine and four plates of the house special for all of them from a young girl who came around to take their order. The girl seemed pleased to see Osanna, pausing before returning to the kitchen to ask where the tiefling had been the last few days. Once the girl had departed, the conversation turned to those who didn’t know each other introducing themselves. Zelia and Bill seemed to have made their preliminary introductions over Bill’s cupcake back in the temple, which Bill had voraciously eaten on their way to the tavern, and since Glenn was the only one who knew everyone at the table, he had little to contribute to the conversation anyway, which suited him fine.
Despite the rather rowdy crowd at The Marred Rune – at one point, a fistfight nearly broke out between two rather inebriated patrons who were seated at the bar, and a broad-shouldered, rotund man came storming out from the back of the kitchen to break up the ruckus before an all out brawl broke out – Osanna seemed right at home inside the rustic tavern. Several of the regulars waved to her or called out cheerful greetings, the dwarves came to invite her to throw hatchets with them (she thanked them but politely declined), and even the burly cook who had broken up the fistfight earlier, who Glenn took to be the owner, cast her a pleasant “welcome back” from across the bar when Osanna went up to refresh their wine. It was clear that she herself was something of a regular here, and a popular one at that.
The longer Osanna and Zelia sat talking to one another, Zelia chattering on about growing up in Magnimar and how the city had changed over the years while Osanna regaled the half-elf with tales from Qadira, the more relaxed the tiefling seemed to grow. Glenn wasn’t sure if he’d ever seen her quite this light-hearted in…well, ever, when he thought about it. Her jubilant, carefree demeanor, the radiant smile that played on her lips, the bubbly laugh that sounded like sunhine turned to song…all of it made his heart ache for her more than ever.
And that made him want to walk away and never return.
“Ooh, extra potatoes,” Osanna proclaimed when the young waitress brought their dinners out. Plates of braised lamb, roasted fingerling potatoes, and warm, soft rolls were set down in front of each of them, although Osanna was correct – her plate obviously had extra potatoes piled on it. “They do know me well here,” the tiefling continued with a smile, her tail switching back and forth happily as she began cutting into her meat.
“I didn’t get extra potatoes,” Glenn muttered, staring down at his plate.
“Do you want some of mine?” Osanna asked, nudging her plate toward him.
Glenn opened his mouth to make some snide comment about how he wouldn’t dare take any food from such a prominent member of the tavern’s patrons when it hadn’t been offered to him in this first place, when he caught the look on Osanna’s face. It was somewhere between concerned and upset; he realized she was expecting him to say something nasty, and was already braced for it. “No.” He grimaced, turning back to his plate to avoid her gaze. He suddenly felt slightly sick to his stomach. “It’s fine. It’s not like I’d be able to eat that much, anyway.”
“You should eat that much!” Osanna exasperated. Glenn could hear the edge of concern still to her voice. “I can practically see your ribs, Glenn.”
“Osanna’s right,” Bill added through a mouthful of lamb slathered in gravy, “you look like a rat. Can you imagine if one of those clerics cast Create Water near you? You’d just wash away.”
“Then he’d be like a drowned rat,” Zelia chimed in cheerfully. She and Bill both guffawed. Glenn felt his face flush slightly and pushed his potatoes around on his plate with his fork, suddenly not feeling very hungry.
Glenn wasn’t sure if it was the wine or the growing noise in the tavern, but within an hour, his head was throbbing and he felt exhausted. Normally neither drinks nor crowds bothered him – he was no stranger to either in the past – but it had been so long since his last night carousing like this that he suddenly felt like a silly teenager who couldn’t keep a drink down. Osanna must have noticed, for after Bill had finished the rest of Glenn’s plate – he had only eaten about half of his meal – she called for everyone to finish their wine and call it a night.
“After all,” she added as the waitress came by to clear their empty plates off the table, “we can’t keep Glenn up too late tonight anyway. He needs to be up early tomorrow to get to work.”
Glenn was momentarily confused until he remembered that he was supposed to be helping her renovate some kind of shelter. That was the condition of his release earlier that day, after all.
“Well, she’s got you whipped good now, doesn’t she?” Bill chuckled, finishing off his glass of wine. Glenn barely managed to contain a groan of dismay.
“That’s enough, William,” Osanna said, and Glenn didn’t miss the hint of warning in her voice, although he doubted Bill either noticed or cared. The tiefling pushed her chair away from the table to stand, adding, “Do you have a place to stay tonight?”
“I’ve got a room up at the Duck,” Bill replied, referring to the Drunken Duck, the Heroes’ old stomping ground when they had first arrived in Magnimar, “although I could just Teleport back to Sandpoint if I want. But I figured I’d spend some time in the library while I’m here.”
“I would ask if you don’t already have enough books, but I know better than that,” Osanna said with a smile as she placed a stack of coins on the table while Bill and Zelia threw cloaks and coats around their shoulders. When everyone was ready to go, Osanna lead them back out onto the street. The sun had long since set and it was full dark outside, and the cold winter wind felt like a set of claws raking across Glenn’s face. The chilly air did help clear his head, however.
“Zelia,” Osanna was continuing, “it was lovely seeing you again. Perhaps we could do this again sometime, when the boys aren’t around.”
“Oh!” Zelia exclaimed. There was a pause before she responded, “Oh, yeah, I’d like that a lot. Hey, Glenn,” she turned to him, “I’m working tonight, but if you need a place to stay, just come find me at the bar, okay?”
“Yeah…thanks, Zellie,” Glenn replied as the half-elf trotted down the street, waving over her shoulder.
“Bill–” Osanna started, turning toward the wizard.
“Yeah, yeah,” Bill replied, looking bored, “good to see you guys, glad you’re okay, Glenn, blah blah blah. I’m sure I’ll see you two around soon. Or something.” Without waiting for a response from either of them, the wizard took a half-step forward and disappeared.
Osanna stared at the spot where Bill had just been standing for a moment before turning to Glenn. “Well,” she said, her breath misting on the cool air, “do you want to come back to the temple for the night? Or are you going to go stay with your barmaid?”
“She’s not my barmaid,” Glenn said crossly. He knew Osanna was teasing. And not even maliciously; they used to rib each other back and forth constantly, especially after a few drinks. But for some reason this comment rubbed him the wrong way, as so many of her comments these days did. “I only stayed with her for a few days, and I’ll have you know we didn’t even sleep in the same bed.” He gave Osanna a rather pointed look.
To his surprise, Glenn thought he saw Osanna’s cheeks flush in the dim light. “I didn’t…” she started, but for once she looked like she didn’t know what to say. Glenn waited, but after a moment, Osanna simply added, “Well, the temple is always open to you. You’ll always have a place there.”
Osanna turned and started up the street, and Glenn suddenly felt sick to his stomach again. He watched her as she moved further away, and suddenly he was aware that a voice was screaming in his head to go after her, that if he didn’t – right here, right now – he would lose her for good. Was it the daemons? The strange entity that had been acting as his guardian angel ever since he nearly died in Jorgenfist? His own consciousness? He didn’t know, and he didn’t care.
“Wait,” Glenn said suddenly, jogging to catch up to her. Osanna paused, turning to meet him as he joined her. “Are you sure I’m not going to be imposing?”
Osanna studied him for a moment, a small frown tugging at the corners of her mouth. “You’re not imposing, Glenn,” she said quietly. “Please come back.”
Glenn nodded once, and the two of them walked in silence together through the Underbridge. The streets were dark aside from the odd light glowing from within the buildings that they passed. The temple was nearby, and they reached it within minutes. Inside, the large braziers that had lit the prayer hall had been extinguished, although the orb that the statue of Sarenrae held remained illuminated as always.
“Well,” Osanna started, turning to face Glenn once they were both inside and the front doors had been shut behind them, “I trust you remember your way around. The temple is at your disposal. Feel free to use the kitchen and other facilities at your convenience.” She paused briefly. “There’s plenty of food in the larder.”
“Right,” Glenn muttered. She hadn’t ignored the fact that he had only eaten half of his dinner.
“I’ll see you in the morning, then,” Osanna continued, although she made no move toward her bedroom.
“Right,” Glenn said again. He hesitated for a moment, then turned and started across the prayer hall toward a series of doors set in the side wall that lead to bedchambers for Ular, the clerics, and himself.
“Glenn.” Osanna’s voice caused him to pause, although he didn’t turn back to face her; he didn’t think he could without falling apart. “I’m glad you’re here.”
His breath caught in his throat. A crushing weight slammed into his chest, threatening to collapse his lungs. He couldn’t breath. Without a word, Glenn hurriedly crossed to the door that lead to his old room, wrenching it open and stepping inside.
Glenn leaned back against the closed door for a moment to catch his breath before looking around. The room was almost exactly as he remembered leaving it nearly a year ago. A bed, a dresser, a wardrobe, a small desk and chair. There was a weapon stand in one corner, large enough for his sword, which he crossed over to to place the blade upon before dropping his haversack on the floor in the middle of the room. He would unpack in the morning – not that he had much, anyway – tonight he just wanted to try to sleep.
As he stepped toward the bed, he noticed it: a colorful piece of cloth that stood in contrast against the muted grey linens that made up the bed. Glenn picked it up, letting the cloth run between his fingers as he unfolded it and realized it was his old Varisian scarf, the one that he had left for Osanna before he and Helena had departed from Magnimar.
Glenn held the scarf up between his hands; the colors had reminded him of a sunset, reds flowing into oranges flowing into yellows. He tried to swallow and couldn’t. Quickly, he set it aside on the nightstand next to the bed before sitting down on the mattress to take his boots off.
As he leaned forward to unlace his boots, Glenn heard a soft clatter on the floor in front of him, and saw his Sarenite ring glowing faintly in the darkness. It was reflecting the light of…well, Glenn wasn’t sure, since there was next to no light in the chamber at the moment, but somehow the platinum and gold band seem to be emitting a light of its own. Slowly, Glenn picked it up, realizing he must have put it in the pocket of his vest before they had left the temple to go to dinner.
Glenn kicked off his boots and laid back on the bed, rolling the ring around between his thumb and forefinger as he stared at it. After a moment, he slipped it on his ring finger next to the iron band that Halst had bound to him earlier that day.
This wasn’t home. Glenn wasn’t sure if he’d ever really had a home, or if he ever really would. But for now, this felt like the right place to be.