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Fate and Chance

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Kim's hideout had certainly seen better days, but it wasn't the worst place he had found among Erothin's many nooks and crannys. It was here that he scribbled his pamphlets and came to hide when the guards came after him.

This was one of those times. He slipped between the rocks, and wound his way backward along the spring's narrow-carven niche. Sometime in the distant past, someone had chipped a hidey-hole into the soft stone, leaving a refuge few could find.

The spring that dribbled into the deceptively peaceful moat provided his drinking water, and he was used to frugal meals, so he was fairly comfortable. Papers and ink he brought from the Monastery sat in an small crate he had scavenged in the middle of the night. It served as a desk, a place where his writing wouldn't be any wobblier than usual.

Even down here, he couldn't risk using magic. He didn't know the power of the bell that sat in bronzy smugness on the city's plaza and didn't care to test it. Instead, he used candles, first the few he brought with him, then whatever he could scrouge from the melted dribbles that spread over his makeshift desk.

During his time first at the Sanctum, then at the Monastery, Kim had almost forgotten how difficult lighting candles by hand was. He tried not to curse at the flint as he failed again and again to light the tallow candlewick.

Finally, a tiny fire light on the oil-soaked wick. Kim sighed with frustrated relief and went to tend to thickening ink and worn pen-nibs.

His mind wandered a little as the hoirs crept by; the drying ink gleaming under the ruddy light taking on different shades and meanings.

Ye Gods, I must be tired, he thought, staring at a word he'd read so many times over it seemed to have almost lost any shred of meaning. He shook his head and pressed on. Surely it wasn't that late yet...

Over the next few hours, his eyes drifted toward the wet ink, over and over. When he was young, sometimes he could see visions in water or ink or his mother's thin broth. It was tempting to see if he could repeat it, see if he could find Gertrude somewhere among the oily colors.

He shivered suddenly, his still-thin shoulders quivering under the memory of his father's beatings after the stern, book-black man had learned of his innocent games. He couldn't, even if he tried. Even if he would, which he wouldn't anyway, even to satisfy his own worry. It was a brief idea, nothing more.

He sighed, and blew on the ink to dry his finished paper.

One down, and many more to go.

Another piece of paper, another message. He hadn't gotten more than a few hours of sleep in weeks. He was tired, so tired.

It had been a month, at least since he had gotten here. Longer since he had left the Monastery, and seen Gertrude last.

He missed Gertrude with a poignant sting, missed the red-haired, hooked-nosed woman with her cheerfully loud voice and ruddy, freckled face. Her large, capable hands and abundance of good common sense.

A strange angel indeed, he thought in amusement, remembering his bewildered first impressions of the tall woman- taller than him, which had caused some good-natured ribbing from the other novices, never intended as anything but genial. At first he had flinched from everyone's raised hands and loud voices, even Gertrude's; but he had slowly, slowly grown used to being slapped on the shoulder in congratulations or commiseration, catching his aborted twitches before they happened. Gertrude had helped as best she could without knowing what to do for him.

He smiled at the memories of his red-haired protector. That probably hadn't hurt his budding adoration.

And then that ship ride to Arktwend. Gertrude had asked about his past, his parents, how he had become a slave. It had touched him that she cared, and so he had told her, even if it paled in comparison to the happines in her stories of Abbey life. She had listen quietly, occasionally asking about some aspects he hadn't made clear.

And then she had hugged him fiercely, telling him that his father was lucky she had been across the Valley and much smaller at the time.

He missed her sorely. He wondered what she would make of his doings here, sneaking about at night, slowly raising the trust of the Aeterna and certain of the farmers and merchants who had witnessed the Chancellor's brutality firsthand, only to be forced to turn away for fear of their own lives and livelihoods.

Well. Fate (and Callisto) had chosen to seperate them yet again. Kim may not like it, but he supposed he had to live with it.

He looked down at his paper and was dismayed at what he saw. His handwriting had gone scrawling along with his thoughts until he'd run out of ink. At first he was angry with himself. Stupid. Stupid. I can't afford to wast paper like this.

Then he read further and was amused by his own mental wording and the seemingly poor grasp of Inâl his inner voice seemed to possess. The ink began to glide patchily, sometimes rendering whole words as meaningless scratches.

I really do need to go to bed, he thought ruefully.