I drank, and after running out of my own, meager supply, I went to look for Magras. He led me off to a tent where he kept "the good stuff," and let me take a case. We talked for a little bit, but I was not in much of a mood for talking. (He did let slip, however, that we had an older brother I had never met - who had been banished. Something to look into later. At the time, I really didn't give a shit.) While walking back to my wagon, I passed a group of carnies...and decided to satisfy another urge as well. I was easily able to recruit one of them to help me carry the wine, and when we got back to the wagon, I invited him to share a drink with me. One drink became a bottle, and the alcohol soon overcame any inhibitions he may have had about me being Magras' sister.
Despite his masterful performance, sex wasn't really what I was looking for, and I tired of him after about an hour. Kicking him out, I turned back to sharing my melancholy with the wine, and finished off another couple of bottles. Damn! Now I was hungry. I threw back on some of my clothes, at least enough to be decent, and went out in search of food. What I found, instead, was Hanu.
He approached me, arms out as if to catch me if I staggered. "I see things have changed much since we first met, Young Mistress. Unless your condition is due to a pretty intense round of Hide & Seek."
I laughed as I almost fell into his arms, "I guess you could say I played Hide and Seek."
Doing his best to hide a smile, he replied, "I... yes, this wasn't the avenue I planned this conversation to be going."
"Well, I assume you don't want to play Hide and Seek. Or do you?" I winked.
He smiled, gently letting go of me. "No thank you."
"Well, what did you want, a drink? There's still *some* left."
"That's quite all right. I'm guessing your moments of grief have passed, though perhaps through artificial means."
I winked, "He seemed quite natural to me."
"I was referring to the drink." Good old Hanu.
"What? Hard to believe I'm not a little girl anymore?"
"I admit, a little. Though it is to be expected, after all."
"Well, you and Magras were kind enough to bring back everything I didn't like about being a little girl, thank you very much." My shadow destroyed, once again fleeing from a monstrous nothingness.
"I... I am sorry if I caused you pain, Abigail. If... if I can do anything to rectify it I will."
"Well, if you wouldn't mind bringing back my shadow, I'd appreciate it."
"If I could I would. I could also ask the same of you. But I do apologize. If my presence is bringing back memories best left forgotten, I will take my leave."
Damn it. I didn't mean to piss him off. He was one of the only things I *did* love from those days. "Wait! Don't go."
"I wasn't. I apologize, that came out more spiteful than I meant."
Good, I guess I overreacted. Demon rum! Or wine..."It's just, you and Magras show up, right after each other, and then...Nothing."
"Ah... I understand. There was some advice I had for you. And, judging your condition I believe you are adult enough to understand it now. I refrained from stating it when you were young for fear it might make you too much of a... cynic."
"Like everyone else I'm related to?"
He smiled, "I just hoped I could shield you from that, but... well...Anyway. There are two types of people in this world, Abigail...Those who are destroyed, and those who survive while watching all around them get destroyed. Neither is a better solution. The best we can all do is accept the life we have."
"I don't want to fight in some stupid war over some fucking place I've never even been to. And I thought I got away. But it's just following me."
"War is never won or lost by those who wanted to start it in the first place, Young Mistress. You also don't have to fight in the war. But that would mean growing accustomed to losing those you are close to. After all, you are High Born. You will probably live through my death. I'm sorry if I'm being a bit grave, I know you are still in mourning. Perhaps the grief of you and Young Master has affected me more so than I thought."
I sighed as Hanu's cat sidled over and sat on his shoulder. "I don't want to lose those close to me, and I don't want to fight!"
He rubbed the cat's head affectionately. "I wish I could present you another solution, Young Mistress."
"And I don't know how long I can stay drunk and amuse myself playing here."
He smirked. "There seems to be plenty of alcohol and men of ill repute in this... caravan."
"Yeah, but not all of them are up to my...standards." I smiled a little.
"Um... I... apologize. There is still part of me that remembers protecting you from... many things you now embrace with your lifestyle." Ah, yes. If I had been much older before we parted, I think Hanu would have invested in the proverbial shotgun. "I'm not condemning those decisions, you are a woman now."
I laughed, "Well, it's not like I'm gonna catch something.
Hanu whispered to the cat, "Tamaktanass," and it bounded off. He then turned back to me, smiling, "And if you did, you wouldn't have to worry about the Nothing. On the plus side, Abigail. It appears Maya has warmed up to you. She would like to speak with you at some point, though her grasp of High Tongue is a bit off."
That snake...thing has always been a bitch to me. But, I didn't want to piss her off too much, for Hanu's sake. "Um, perhaps when I'm on better behavior? I'd hate to piss her off again."
He smiled, a distant look in his eyes, "She's surprisingly more tolerant than you'd think."
"Not that I care much what she thinks, but I don't want to make life any harder for you."
"She also requested that I not attend. The word she used doesn't translate well, but it's akin to girl talk."
What the fuck? "I see..."
"And thank you for your consideration."
"What am I going to do, Hanu?"
He leaned into me. "I don't know, Abigial. I will support you in your wishes. You are one of the last things I have left to fight for. If fighting is the path taken. I guess I should tell you this now."
Old faithful, he was. Probably the only stability left in a drifting sea of..."Oh, Hanu! Why did it have to come and take everything away?"
He held me as he had when I was a child. "I don't know, Abigail. I don't know."
I sat for a while, letting my anguish flow with my tears. "I guess I'm not a grown up as I think, am I?"
"None of us are, Young Mistress. Misery is a part of life. Consume it ravenously so it won't consume you. This... this might cheer you up. Or it might not. I'm not sure. You do know the service arrangement I had with your parents, right?"
Why was he bringing this up? "Not really, at least not the details."
"I could spend a few decades describing the exact details. That's how us Hanumasha work. Well. Some time ago, roughly, by my accounts, 74 years before you and I re-encountered each other, the contract ended."
"But that was before I was born. Maybe...I never caught on to that time thing."
"Not quite. I spent a long time in shadow searching for you two. It was roughly 200 years after we were separated."
And I thought he was just serving my parents. "So...you could go home anytime?"
"Again, my personal time. You are more familiar with the inner workings of different realms than I am. No. Two reasons. Contract or no, I swore I'd find you two. Second. My home is gone, too. Granted, I've achieved the first."
I guess I wasn't the only one. "Your home is gone? I'm sorry."
"It happened a long, long time ago. The realms of chaos aren't unaffected by this war. Although, I'm not entirely sure I was as sad to see it go as I was from... our home."
"Then I suppose the question to be answered is...What do *we* do now?"
Hanu smiled. "Since we found Young Master, there has not been a second I haven't asked that question."
"I don't know that I want to stay here." The caravan wasn't exactly my cup of tea, although better than some places.
"Neither do I. Young Master and I have divurging tastes. Though, that brings us back to your previous question."
"Well, I can't travel out of here."
"Maya can guide us. Though, I am a bit hesitant to just outright leave Young Master."
He can take care of himself. If Hanu was concerned about being rude, "We can tell him we're leaving..."
"I'm not sure we should make such a rash decision at this time. Especially if... if drink might impose our emotions."
"I don't think he'd be too sad to see us go."
"No, I don't either. But, well, we might be needing to pull the allies, however tempermental or not, to our sides. And there is the whole question of where we'd go, too."
Maybe we could outrun it. "Far away."
He smiled some. "That might not be the safest idea."
"Why not? Afraid of a cannonball?"
"I," he smiled again, looking around, "might get in trouble for saying this. Our method of transport might not be the best at navigating away from danger."
"What do you mean?"
"Well...There are other creatures more...Adept at manipulating the other realms. Though I do not doubt Maya's abilities, she's... she's no High Born."
I laughed. "Like me? I'm not getting us anywhere."
"Your family had, and probably still might have, many enemies."
"Perhaps. Though the last few times I heard of him he was dead, but only later coming back and taking over."
"Well, the Nothing isn't gone."
"Well, in a sense it is. Sorry, demon humor."
I laughed. "Very funny. I...I want to leave."
"Can Maya carry my chest?" I wasn't sure I wanted to leave it behind. "Should I ask her if she'll take me?"
"Yes, though, she won't be able to leave my side without my permission. And I believe we might need some time to think this through."
"I don't want to think...thinking is trouble."
"After all, Young Mistress. The cause of your problems, the Nothing, could be everywhere. Or NoWhere. Or Following us now. You're right. We might find a spot outside of the gaze of The Nothing. We might last years, decades. But do you think it will stop on it's own?"
"But why do we have to fight it? Let someone else do it. We can keep running."
"Who will fight it... Magras?"
The idea of Magras fighting anyone...I laughed. "I suppose you have a point."
"I did not mean for that to come out as offensive as it seemed."
He tried to cover up a smirk, but I called him out. "Yes you did! Admit it!"
"Your perception is full of drink, Young Mistress."
"Maybe I should drink more."
"You are a grown woman now. I have no say in the matter."
More than he thought he did..."No, you can't give me orders...but I will always take your advice."
"Well, I am still interpreting it's affects on you, so it's still a bit too early to tell. Right now though, I think perhaps a rest might be in order."
"Then, tomorrow...I will talk to Maya, then the three of us will talk about where we are going. In the meanwhile...I think there's some toys here to play with." I winked. I could use a companion for now.
"If we're going somewhere, of course." Hanu stammered as he understood my meaning. "Good... uh... good adventures, then."