Farrand makes a soft, whickering sound, responding happily to Tessa's pets.
The morning light filters weakly through the dense foliage of the trees, and the forest is oddly, unaccountably, silent.
"Good morning Farrand. You haven't seen my brother have you?" she runs her fingers through the coarser hair of his mane. "I suppose that's a silly question." she tries, with limited success, to brush the wrinkles out of her dress, then gives up with a shrug. "Well... maybe while he's absent I should freshen up."
The horse stamps a forehoof once and tosses its head impatiently, either nodding its assent, or attempting to get her attention.
Tessa slips into the brush surrounding the campsite. "Maybe I can remembers a girl scout song."
Farrand stamps a hoof again, grumbling low in his throat, and turns away with a proud flick of its mane.
Tessa chuckles. "Sorry Farrand, I promise to pamper you as soon as I take care of this matter." she pauses, trying to stretch and straighten. "And maybe after I work out these few cricks."
The horse returns to his earlier occupation of investigating the edibility of the lcoal grass, snorting once or twice to himself. Some time later, he looks up, ears twitching and staring across the campsite into the trees.
Tessa winds her way through the brush, first taking care of neccessities, than investigating for a small creek, or source of water. "I think I'll miss that whirlpool of mine."
Farrand snorts softly, flaring his nostrils as he stares at the trees on the far side of the campsite.
Tessa stumbles onto the small creek, nearly sinking into the soft, mossy mud at it's side. Kneeling and stretching carefully across a fallen set of branches, she scoops up handfuls of water splashing it over her face, then does the same with her hair, at tempting to bring it to control.
In the mornign silence, the only sounds to be heard are the splashing down by the creek, and the occasional soft, uneasy sounds from Farrand.
Tessa raises her head. "Alright Farrand. I'm coming." she smiles, rising and shaking wetness from her hands. "Spoiled creature." She returns to the campsite, humming softly.
Farrand seems distinctly unhappy about something, his attention fixed on the trees across from them.
Tessa regards Farrand for a long while, then her eyes move to the trees. "What is it boy?" Then she frowns. "I sound like an episode of Lassie."
Farrand backs a couple of steps from its tree, tugging on the reins wrapped around a low branch.
Tessa looks at the reins. "Now here's a question. If I loosen your reins will you run off and leave me? Or will you use those hoofs for what they are meant for?" she backs off a bit and glimpses through the brush for a staff-like stick.
Farrand looks a little wild-eyed by this time, pulling at its reins unhappily. Across the campsite, a shadow moves among the trees, low but vaguely man-shaped.
Tessa scoops up a long branch, and holds it carefully, with one hand. Returning to Farrand's side she loosens the reins. "If you run out on me horse, I'm not feeding you another carrot. Ever."
In the trees, the shadowy form is joined by another, and then a third. Farrand's reins do not come loose easily, not while he's still pulling on them anyway.
Tessa makes a fist in Farrand's mane for a bit, eyes still searching the grove of trees. She pulls the horse's head gently towards the rein and whispers harshly at him. "Whoa. Now stay still so I can undo these." Cradling the staff in the crook of her arm, she struggles with the reins, eyes mainly on the trees.
It takes a little doing, but Farrand obliges just long enough to give Tessa enough slack to loosen his reins with.
The shadowy forms disappear briefly, moving behind the trees. A rustling of the bushes there, a glimpse of a moving darkness over there, the soft crunch of small stones being stepped on over there again. They've split up, encircling the camp.
Tessa mutters to herself angrily. "Dammit I wish I'd had time to pack." Undoing the reins, she keeps them tightly fisted in her hand and retakes the stick in her other. "A blade may be nice but I'd rather have a gun, or the Senora at my side."
Farrand pulls at his reins, backstepping all the while, his eyes flicking round to the trees to his side and across form him.
Something approaches the campsite across from Tessa and Farrand, a midget or a stocky child, from it shape. It does not appear to be armed.
Tessa's eyes narrow, and she holds the staff forward slightly. "Halt. You shouldn't be here."
As it steps out into the clearing, out from the shadows, it quickly becomes clear it is no human child - white and smooth like the belly of a slug, its 'face' is devoid of any features but a wide, red-lined mouth.
Tessa's voice is raspy as she pulls back. "Mother of God..." She places a foot in Farrand's stirrup, and glares at him. "If you boot me off into these Asimovian childtoys, I'll damn well make sure there's a gris-gris made from your mane is that understood?"
Whether Farrand's resulting acquiscence has to do with his understanding of her threat, or the fact that she's no longer gripping on to his reins and mane, is hard to say. But he doesn't look about to throw her, his attention flicking between the thing in the campsite and the trees to either side of them.
The thing turns its 'face' toward the sound of Tessa's voice, and begins to move in her direction with small, quick movements. Among the trees to the left is more rustling, growing closer now. Of the third there's no sign.
Tessa gains her seat, managing to slip the reins over Farrand's head. As is said, necessity breeds invention. "Well Farrand..." she says softly. "I once saw a movie in which a woman riding away from wolves used the staff she was holding to knock them sens eless." she holds the reins in one hand and the staff in her other, facing that sluggish babe. "Ever feel like visiting Hollywood?"
Farrand steps lightly in place, shaking his mane. He starts edging away from the trees, and backing ever so slightly away from the camp.
The second slugchild comes in sight among the trees to the left, as naked and white and featureless as the first, still homing in on Tessa's voice as it skirts the campfire.
Tessa makes a few soft murmuring sounds. "Come on Farrand, keep calm. Then smash it's face in with a hoof. It does wonders for the reviews." Her head swiftly moves, glancing over the rest of camp. "Dammit. Remind me to tell Martin he's not allowed to spy on any of my slumber parties for a while for this."
Farrand's only response to that is an uneasy flick of his ears. He steps uneasily in place, attempting to keep an eye on both approaching creatures.
The first slugbaby gapes in Tessa's direction, showing rows upon rows of tiny, sharp teeth, as he picks up his pace. The second one clears a bush, turning its face from side to side, homing in on Tessa's voice and the sounds of the horse.
She grits her teeth. "Make a deal with you Farrand. You help me with this and I won't ignore you for personal hygeine first thing in the morning anymore. I promise." And with that, she turns his head towards the closer of the monstosities and sets her heels into Farrand's side.
Farrand starts forward uncertainly, unused to this rider and her peculiar mannerisms, then decides that an instruction to move is an instruction to move. He goes.
The third slugbaby makes its appearance then, having circled the camp the other way, stepping blindly out into the horse's path.
If the game at hand were polo, Tessa could be described as taking a strange form for driving towards goal. As it is, she leans into Farrand, and swings the new-found staff with like a club towards the body of the mal-formed creature.
Sensing, or hearing, the horse all of a sudden,the third slugbaby turns in confusion towards Tessa and Farrand, reaching up its stubby arms towards them, only to get a faceful of wildly swung branch.
At their backs, the remaining creatures let out a shrill, formless cry as they rush towards their escaping prey.
Tessa leans close to Farrand's neck, whispering in his ear meaningless word of encouragement. "Come on Farrand. Please."
As the third slugbaby falls back, Farrand clearly decides he's had enough, and breaks into a nervous canter, onto the trail and away fromt he campsite and rapidly approaching other things.
A few minutes down the trail at a canter Tessa pulls on the reins, as every cowboy in a western has done, to slow Farrand. She pauses to look back for followers. "I swear Martin, timing obviously does not run in our family."
Just beyond the edge of the clearing, the sight of the two slug-like babes gorging themselves on their fallen comrade is visble.
Farrand just gives his mane another toss, apparently annoyed at being made to slow down, and manages to do so without too much bad grace. He continues on at a walk, muscles quivering a little after the short run.
Tessa stays astride Farrand as she lifts her voice with the very power that let her belt out to a noisy bar packed with dancers. "Martin!" the noise echoes strangely through the trees. "We have some uninvited guests."
The surrounding trees soak up the cry, and the silence returns to the dark wood, palely lit by the weak morninglight. There's no returning shout.
Tessa looks disgruntled. "Dammit." she says softly, then slips her first two fingers into her mouth and lets out an ear piercing whistle.
Again, nothing. Farrand continues at a steady walk along the narrow trail through the trees, flicking his ears now and again as he attempts to look back at what his rider's up to.
Tessa shakes her head, and does her best to pull Farrand about. "We're not leaving without him, and I don't care how badly you object to it." With a soft tug or two she gives the suggestion to reverse directions. "Dammit... this is my first campsite with my brother. It's a sentimental thing and I am not letting it get torn apart by some disgusting crawled-out-from-underneath-the-rock-next-to-my-ex creature that decides it's hungry and is surly in the morning."
Farrand comes to a full stop, and simply peers round back at her.
Tessa clears her throat looking at him. "Oh come on." she says, frustration entering her voice, and she pulls the reins to the right again. "I know I've seen it done like this before. I promise, the moment we find Martin you can kick me off your back like the unschooled chit I am. But until then you are on your best behaviour. Now move!"
Farrand circles tightly to the right then, turning almost a full circle twice.
Tessa relaxes her pull. "Sorry 'bout that boy. Let's try this a little softer." She pulls to the right softly, stopping after the direction is given.
Farrand repsonds accordingly this time, facing back the way they came.
Tessa's smile spreads across her entire face. "Well what do you know. Horse riding is rather like leading an intermediate swinger. Let your hands pull and halt when necessary." she lets her head fall back laughing. "Now that, even I can figure out." She gently touches her heels to Farrand's side then and leads him softly back towards the campsite, eyes watching for the pasty friends.
If Farrand has any thoughts on the subject, he keeps them to himself. Ears alert and twitching, and watchng the path ahead of him, he walks back along the trail to the camp they'd abandoned scant minutes before.
Tessa smiles faintly. "I think I may grow accustomed to all of this." then her eyes narrow and she seeks out the earlier guests, gripping her staff tightly. "Where are you, you blasted things."
As they're heading towards the camp site, a familiar figure approaches from that direction, leading a silvery gray palfrey with white mane and tail. He seems to be humming a little tune to the horse.
Tessa sighs slightly. "Timing. As I said Farrand, it's always timing."
Ahead, Martin hails Tessa. "Nice ride?"
Tessa clears her throat. "Nice enough. I'm afraid I didn't find breakfast."
Martin gives Tessa an odd look as she nears. "Did you look in his saddlebags?"
Tessa arches a brow. "No. Our breakfast guests decided they wanted something a bit more squiggly."
"Those guys?" he jerks a thumb back over his shoulders. "They're a bunch of laughs, though, aren't they," he grins. "Here, got you a horse you should be able to handle."
Her lips purse. "Glad to know I haven't lost my sense of humor then." she says, in almost clipped terms. She sighs then and leans forward and whispers. "I'll pay you two carrots to bite him just once Farrand." Then she sighs again and climbs down from Farrand's back. "Thank you for the horse Martin."
What was that?" Martin asks, as he prepares to hand the reins of the palfrey over. Then, "Uh, you're welcome. Farrand give you any trouble?"
Tessa shakes her head, with a small laugh. "Once I remembered the principle rule of leading he was an angel. Someday I'll make good on taking him to Hollywood." she accepts the reins and then spends a few moments getting aquainted.
"..Hollywood. Right." Martin offers Tessa a couple of small, dried up yellow apples. "For the horse," he explains as he heads over to greet Farrand.
Tessa offers the apples to the horse, murmuring softly. "Well, silver one, you seem quite nice."
"And has she been giving you any trouble, eh, old boy?" Martin rubs his horse's nose affectionately, as he starts checking his straps and fastenings. "Had to go a fair way to find her," he says after a moment to Tessa. "Didn't expect you to wake so soon."
The look that passes over her face says a lot, but only to her horse who can see it. "Early to bed and and early to rise." she shrugs. "keeps you from being breakfast to a slug."
Martin quirks a brow, "Did the local wildlife give you a fright?" He sounds surprised.
Tessa turns on a hell and quips back to him. "No. Certainly not. I'm used to my neighbors eating each other. I just never expected to run into one of the Senora's pets so far from home."
He slips a foot into the stirrup, takes hold of the saddlehorn and swings up into the saddle lightly. Tessa's sarcasm washes off like so much water off the proverbial duck's back. "They're blind, Tessa." He says with amusement, "and not terribly bright. You don't think for one moment I'd camp us anywhere *dangerous*, do you?"
Tessa frowns. "It's good to know. Next time I'll remember that when something is tracking me by sound and by the sounds your horse is making." Then she sighs turning away. "There goes my temper again. I don't respond well to fear at times. I get mad."
Martin shrugs, "From what I saw, you didn't do so badly."
Tessa turns slowly, her head canted to the side. "You watched it all?" her voice low, and words slow. "Well I suppose I should thank you for your compliment."
He chuckles, nudging Farrand over to her. "I was finding you a horse at the time, remember? I just came from the campsite. No Tessa, no Farrand. Dead slug-things. Interesting, no?"
Tessa nods, gaining her seat in the saddle with a much steadier mounting.
"Very. Well thank you for the horse." she pauses. "Shadowfax. A fitting
name for her."
Tessa looks at the stained stick in her hands and sighs. "Think I could find a better one?" she queries, lifting it to your sight.
"I think you can leave that behind now," Martin says with a low chuckle. "We'll get you a better stick later if we have to."
Tessa tosses the stick off to the side of the path. "Thanks. Shall we be off?"
"If you like," he says, turning Farrand round, away from the direction of the camp.
Tessa nods. "Please. It's not that I don't love nature, it being the seventies and all, but a bath would feel nice."
He chuckles, "There's an inn ahead, if you want." As Farrand sets off at a stately pace, once again under familiar command, Martin adds, "there's bread and cheese, and some more of those second season apples in the bag on the left, if you're hungry."
The smile that appears on Tessa's face is heavenly. "An Inn?" she looks down then. "Well, only if you want." Her hands seek out the food though, quickly enough.
As they walk along the trail, the morning light seems to gain a little more strength and warmth, and the forest seems a little less gloomy and desolate.
"I'm asking you," Martin says. "Do you want an inn? Or do you want road? It's still a few days to where we're going."
Tessa's voice is quiet. "I don't mean to seem pushy. I'm not sore yet, and I think I can ride the full day. An inn would be..." she sighs softly. "I must get used to living without my luxuries."
Martin shakes his head to himself. "I'm not going to ask a third time, Tessa," he says. "Know what you want, and say so. We're fast leaving those places where you can afford to be indecisive."
Tessa nods. "Then yes. I'd love to take lunch at an inn and freshen up and hear more about you. For you're the only brother I have." "Please."
Martin rides in silence a moment. Then, "alright."
Tessa smiles, hurrying her horse forward. "Thank you."
Martin just nods mutely, concentrating on the trail ahead.
A little while later, the dark forest begins to open up, with lush green ferns growing between the tall straight trees. Sunlight streams down in warming yellow shafts, and sometimes, just sometimes, a brightly feathered bird flits past.
"It's very pretty." Tessa says quietly.
"Mm," Martin says without much comment. Then, quietly, "Tell me about the inn."
Tessa's head cants slightly to the side. "I don't know what to tell. I've never been to it."
"Neither have I," Martin says. "So tell me about what you're expecting."
"There's a large fireplace in the den. A warm and cosy room, soft brocade covered chairs and large mugs of spiced cider being served." She takes a deep breath, then closes her eyes a moment. "There's a stable for horses, with warm beds of hay and apples." she smiles then, with a soft sigh.
"The beds upstairs are soft and warm, with large feather filled matresses. And each room has a large copper tub hidden behind a screen, and there are maids who will bring you buckets of warm water so you may lay back in the tub and soak the travels out of your bones." her eyes re-open. "And best of all, the cook has just finished the bread for this day and there were apples enough to make a pie. Roast pork is being served for lunch, with applesauce, bread and sharp cheddar cheese."
Martin gives Tessa a long, silent look. "Been thinking about this a while, have you?" he asks with the faintest of smiles.
Tessa laughs, shaking her head. "No. I just imagined what the nicest thing right now would be."
"Well, let's try not to disappoint you, shall we?" Martin chuckles, returning his attention to the road ahead.
Tessa grins. "Let's hope."
"Hope? If you think it'll help," Martin says as the forest opens up entirly on one side to reveal a lake and mountains beyond it.
"Hope always helps." she strokes the side of Shadowfax softly. "Even in strange ways."
Martin doesn't answer for a time. Wen he does, he just shrugs, "If you say so."
They come to an Inn. Almost a picture perfect replica of what Tessa described. The details she skipped have been filled in, but from what is seen, each that she mentioned is available. A charming little place really.
Tessa's eyes widen slightly. "It's lovely."
"What you wanted?" Martin asks.
Tessa nods. "It is." she moves her eyes to you. "How?"
"Over lunch," he says, setting off towards the inn.
Tessa nods and is quiet again.
In short order, the horses are stabled by eager young lads, and Martin and Tessa are welcomed into the inn, and seated by a cheerful little window looking out into a picturesque garden. Mugs of spiced cider are promptly served, as is everything else that Tessa requested.
Tessa sighs happily, sinking into a mug of hot cider, her eyes closing. "Thank you Martin. You're a damn fine brother."
"Careful," Martin warns, friendly-like. "I might start believing you."
Tessa frowns a moment. "And why shouldn't you? You're my very favorite brother." she says qith a quirk of a smile.
"So far as is known, I'm your *only* brother," he corrects, with a similar quirk of a smile. "Is this," he indicates the inn's cosy interior with a nod, "as you would wish it?"
Tessa nods. "Oh yes. It's lovely. And you're a damn fine brother. So don't you forget it." She steps forward then and brushes her lips against your cheek with a laugh.
"Enough of that, already," Martin says with an iritated smile, brushing her aside afterwards as politely as he can. "I feel like I've got a dog instead of a sister. Sit down. You had a question to ask."
Tessa's eyes go wide. "A dog?!" her eyes narrow playfully. "Why Martin you rapscallion you're darn lucky I don't bite you for that. As it is, you better watch for the second I get my hands on a pillow."
Tessa sniffs, chin raising. "Dog indeed. If you're asking me to fetch your slippers you'll be sadly disappointed."
Martin arches a brow at Tessa, as he takes a seat by the window. "I would ask you nothing of the sort, not even if you esteemed yourself so low," he says, quite, quite serious. "Some things you should not joke about, Tessa, or you will be held to your word."
Tessa smiles faintly, then nods. "Alright then, you bade me ask my question here. So I shall." she retakes her seat. "You had me describe the Inn I hoped to find, and moments later you bring me to it, without even a 'bibbity, bobbity or boo.' I'm wondering how, for I don't see it as a coincidence."
"Luck has nothing to do with it," Martin admits, considers. "Or perhaps it has everything to do with it. I never looked too hard into the metaphysics of it, I'm afraid."
Tessa takes another sip of the cider, brushing her tongue against her lips. "And just what is 'it'?"
He sips his cider, his gaze drifting out to the window before it returns to settle on Tessa's face. "Do you understand that you are a long way from the city of your birth, that this place does not lie anywhere near your Louisiana or your United States?"
Tessa nods, sipping again. "Save the newly risen, we have no creatures so pasty faced." she coughs. "Or faceless really."
"We won't encounter any more like that," Martin assures her. "Others, perhaps, but not those ones exactly."
Tessa smiles faintly. "I'd hope not. They might hold a grudge. People don't often like being mistaken for a field hockey ball."
Martin starts to say something, regards her comment with a smile instead, hides it in a sip. "If you could have seen the stars last night," he says then,after a drink. "You would not have recognised the constellations. Where do you think we are?"
"Through the looking glass perhaps." she shakes her head. "I don't know. Some other world, some other time. Some place someone imagined once."
"We are in the shadowlands," Martin says quietly. "Everyplace we have
been I, or you," he again indicates the inn with a nod, "or someone else
has indeed imagined."
"Wished or willed," he adds, sipping at his cider again. "It comes to the same thing.
Tessa cants her head to the side slightly, placing a finger against her lips in musing. "So you could have taken us to an in filled with pink decorations that was serving flowers istead of food?"
"Yes," Martin replies. "Not that it would have satisfied your hunger pangs much. And then again," he shrugs, "perhaps it might have."
Tessa smiles, chuckling softly. "Not really. I'm not real fond of bunny food."
Martin looks to Tessa a moment, says carefully as he watches her. "Everything you have ever known was itself imagined, once upon a time, by another."
Tessa frowns then. "You mean New Orleans? My home, all of it were imagined by you? Or Random?"
"Not Random," Martin says. "I think that world was his sister's making. I understood that he and others were fond of visiting it, though."
Tessa pulls back, laughing. "Right. And I suppose our Aunt is say... half a million years old or so." she crosses her arms. "You're a good brother Martin but fairy tales are for children."
Martin ignores her laughter, thinking. "She's about four hundred, I think." Another shrug. "I've never met her long enough to ask her." He takes another sip of his cider.
Tessa nods. "Four hundred. So how is it that she created a world fifty thousand times as old as she?"
"I don't know that she created it exactly," he replies. "She imagined it, for want of a better word. And I suppose that's what she wanted."
Tessa's voice looks startled. "She imagined it. So I suppose I"m a creation of her imagination then?"
Martin shrugs, "Is this table solid? It's as much a part of this place as the food, and the cider and the innkeeper, and all of it was as you described, as best as I could imagine."
Tessa shakes her head. "That's impossible." she stands placing her hands on the table and turning away. "No one can create things through imagination." she turns back, her breathing faster. "I believe in magic Martin. I've seen it. I've seen what it does. But you can't just -imagine- something into being."
"Sit down, Tessa," Martin says quietly, firmly.
Tessa's chin raises. "It's not possible." she says softly, slipping back to her chair. "It's not."
"Alright, then," Martin sighs, setting his mug on the tabletop. "So you tell me what's going on then."
Tessa crosses her arms. "Well... maybe it's ritual. A mystical journey. You could have touched me with the source and so we travel inside." she nods, as if this is more comforting than another path.
Martin just looks at her for several moments. His features bear the expression that its owner is considering the possibility that he is speaking with an idiot.
Tessa strangely enough, has the same expression, with the just the barest hints of desperation visible.
"Tessa, do you want to go to your father's house, and find out who your family are, who *you* are," Martin says very slowly and quietly. "Or would you be happier back in New Orleans where the possible and the impossible appear to know their proper places?"
Tessa looks away and down. "I can't go back." her eyes raise, troubled. "I... I know what I saw this morning is impossible and yet I saw it. If I go back they'll stick me in an institution."
"It wouldn't be the first time it's happened," Martin mutters as he picks up his mug again.
Tessa's face falls. "Martin please. I can't go back without knowing the truth. It's more that I don't want to believe." she sighs. "Than that I don't."
Martin regards Tessa wordlessly, then, "Tessa, what you see around you is what you see. It's there, and it's as real as it can be. But it is also little more than shadows and fancies to us. In that sense, all this is unreal, because we have only to walk, and to look for it in the shadowlands, and we will find whatever we dream up."
Tessa's voice grows soft. "So all my world, my friends, all of it. They can be found anywhere?"
"Yes," Martin answers as softly. "But it is never wise to go seeking after the people you have known. They will not know you precisely, or they will not be quite as you remembered them."
Tessa's lip starts to quiver the smallest amount and she looks away. "My mother?" she whispers softly.
Martin shakes his head. "Don't do it," is all he says to that. "Let the dead lie. Don't go looking for your mother."
Tessa shakes her head furiously. "No!" she says harshly in that pained whisper. "I'd not go looking for her! She has gone onto a better place I would not interfere with her soul so!" She swallows hard. "Are you saying she too was your aunt's imagination?"
"Are you?" He shrugs, nonplussed, regarding her over the rim of his mug.
"Am I what?" she asks sullenly.
"Do you feel like a figment of someone else' imagination?"
There is a pause, and an intake of air. "That's a bad question to ask right now." Tessa says with a scowl.
"Nevertheless," Martin says. "I do not wish to proceed if you are filled with this much doubt and uncertainty."
Tessa's eyes raise, they shimmer slightly. "Then I have a question for you. Are *you* a figment of her imagination?"
Martin's dark eyes twinkle. Amusement, perhaps. "No," he answers.
Her chin raises again. "How do you know? Maybe I dreamed you up."
A smirk pinches at the corner of his mouth. "I was born in the True World, Tessa, or near enough anyway." There's something in his voice when he speaks then, with quiet certainty. "My home lies at the center of things, from which all these shadows fall, l ike so many reflections, and mine is the True Blood, like yours."
"So I am real then?" she asks, her voice lilting with a hint of extra air to it.
"You're as real as you have always been, Tessa," Martin says. "The
difference is that you are also of the Blood. And that means that someday
you also may walk the shadows, and find what you may among them."
"And perhaps you will understand that the world you have always known is only one of countless possibilities, all minutely different to yours." He finishes.
"Is that how you found me?" she asks, sinking back into her chair.
Suddenly her eyes widen. "Or are there others of me around?"
"Did you just pick one?"
Martin doesn't answer immediately. "Random left a few pointers," he says
with reluctance. "Once I knew where to go, the rest was inevitable. After
all, you existed in only one place."
"There may be other Tessas," Martin shrugs. "They might look like you, might even share your name and history, but only you were Random's daughter."
"So only my friends, and only my mother knew the real me. Knew the real Tessa." her voice is firm, definitive.
"I could be wrong, hey," he shrugs again. "I have no way of knowing."
Tessa presses further. "But if you're not. If I *am* the Tessa of Random's blood, then all my friends and my mother knew the real Tessa and not the dopplegangers." she smiles faintly. "Then that makes them rather unique."
Martin just shrugs. That aspect of things doesn't seem to hold much interest or concern for him. "All I care about is that you understand what you're getting yourself into. If I'm wrong about who you are, you'll die. If you're the right Tessa, things could still go wrong for you, and you'll die."
Tessa nods. "And if I returned home and accidentally got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time I'd die." Her voice softens. "I don't take danger lightly Martin, but I won't be so terrified of death that I never leave my own home. For that's no life."
"As you wish," Martin says eventually. "Some would say there's a difference between ending your life when it's done, and having it taken from you. But if you're willing to risk it..."
Tessa nods. "True, but I have a question for you." She crosses her legs, leaning back into the chair. "All those years ago when Random first came and left me with those papers. Urging me to learn this Thari of yours. Do you think he meant for me to stay in New Orleans?"
Martin's gaze darkens as it falls on Tessa, and it is several moments before he answers. "I will not pretend to know his intentions concerning you."
"Well it's not as if I needed to learn Thari to keep up in correspondence. He obviously spoke English well enough. What else would I use it for?"
"Had he any care, he would have thought you more than a language." Martin's answer has a low, unpleasant edge to it, an edge that suggests he has no desire to speculate on the matter.
Apprehension flickers over her eyes. "I have offended you." she says softly.
Martin doesn't reply to that. "I believe you wanted a bath," he says after a time, returning to his cider. "I have made arrangements with the people here. They'll see to your needs."
Tessa stands, nodding as she leaves the empty mug upon the table. She passes the few steps to the door and then pauses, looking back over her shoulder. "I feel like I've hurt you somehow Martin, and if that is so I apologize. I didn't mean to."
Martin shakes his head, looking out the window. "Think no more about it. Enjoy your bath. There's no hurry."
Tessa scowls. "I meant what I said Martin, so don't shake it off so easily."
Martin turns from the window, unsmiling. "And I said to forget it. Now go."
Tessa slips from the room.