Story: The Sword and the Staff (chapter 14)

Authors: bleeding.blade

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Chapter 14

Title: Chapter 13

It had taken most of the morning, but the agonizing pain in Rin's temples had finally subsided into a dull ache.

The Mage lay in bed, curled on one side. In an outstretched hand, she held an emerald the size of a fist.

She stared at it long and hard.

Her indecision was causing a migraine almost as bad as the hangover she still suffered.

"Why am I even considering this?" she muttered.

She had to decide quickly, before Saber returned. The blonde had taken one look at her that morning, then had promptly declared, "We're going to need something for that hangover." She'd been gone for nearly an hour now and Rin expected she would be back shortly enough.

But what she was contemplating went against all her principles. Never in her life had she used a jewel for purposes lesser than saving a life. Doing otherwise was foolish and extravagant and Rin had never been either.

But then again, there was a first time for everything. Rin sighed—and the gem imploded in a flash of light.


She returned to find the Mage propped up in bed, a fiddle in one hand and a bow in another. She looked deathly pale.

Saber frowned and crossed the room quickly.

"I thought I told you to rest," she said, touching the back of her hand to Rin's forehead. The Mage's skin felt slightly clammy.

"You know me," Rin smiled weakly. "I can't stay still for very long."

Saber shook her head. "We'll need to stay another night at this rate."

The Mage closed her eyes and murmured softly. "You make that sound like a bad thing." Before Saber could respond, she added. "I'm sure you can endure the torments of a warm bath, a good dinner and a soft bed for at least one more night."

There was one more torment the Mage had failed to mention, but all Saber said was, "Enduring torments is one thing, paying for them is another. How exactly are we going to get the money?"

Rin opened her eyes and smiled. "What do you think I'm holding this fiddle for?"


It had taken a good bit more of Saber's newly-discovered charms, but in the end, the innkeeper had agreed to accept Rin's services as a fiddler that evening as payment for staying an additional night. The only condition was he would get to keep all of her earnings—even if they exceeded the cost of their lodgings.

It hadn't taken Rin four songs before she'd settled their debt. The inn's regular clientele were accustomed to musicians who played with far more enthusiasm and ebullience than talent and technique. Rin possessed the latter in prodigious amounts and the crowd had been quick to demonstrate its appreciation.

It had come back to her quickly enough: all the years of a classical musical education in voice, piano and violin. Her father had instinctively recognized the link between magic and music and had cultivated Rin's abilities in both from her earliest years. If she ever needed a more "normal" career, she already knew what she would choose.

Rin closed her eyes and allowed her hands to transmute the jovial and raucous tunes of the previous night into poignant and wistful melodies. There was just as much alchemy in music as there was in magic, and she could see the effects in her audience's nostalgic expressions and too-bright eyes.

Before she could end, there was one more song she needed to play. She took a deep breath—and plunged into a melody that hailed from a different time: a time of legends, a time of heroes, a time of ideals. It was a melody that sang of an enchanted land, a blessed brotherhood and a tragic peace. It was a melody of love and loss, of hope and despair, of an unrealizable future and an irredeemable past.

It was a haunting and beautiful melody, and even the Shade she'd summoned to teach it to her had been moved to tears.

Rin opened her eyes and looked for a single face in the crowd. When she saw the tears in the emerald eyes, she knew in that instant that the price of a jewel had been well-paid.


She couldn't tell which had touched her more: the loveliness of the melody or the sweetness of the gesture. The moment she had heard the opening strains, she had sat upright in her seat, unable to believe that, somehow, Rin had managed to resurrect this facet of her past.

And she'd not only brought it back, but she'd done it in a way more vivid even than Saber's recollections.

 When the Mage had returned to her seat, all Saber could manage to say was, "How...?"

Rin had responded by asking, "Did you like it?"

Saber could only nod mutely.

"Then that's all that matters," was the Mage's reply.

Later that evening, after they'd settled into bed, Rin startled her by calling quietly into the darkness.


She barely managed to keep her voice steady. "Yes?"

"I never thanked you."

"For what?"

"For getting me into bed last night. I can't remember how you did it, but I'm sure it wasn't easy."

Saber paused, relief and disappointment assailing her in equal measure. "So you don't recall anything?"

The Mage's voice was apologetic. "My memory's usually sharp—at least right until the tenth pint."

 Saber couldn't help it then. She laughed—and was joined a few moments later by an embarrassed yet nonetheless amused Rin.

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