4: Joy and Curses

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    "Sorry, just thinking about the storm." She glanced at Ripley, hoping that the weather wasn't the only storm she had to worry about. They each had their secrets, but would that be enough to keep hers safe?

    Miserable and shivering, Blayre peeled off her thoroughly soaked stockings with an audible suctioning noise. She cringed, tossing them into a pile of clothing by the fire. The storm still raged outside, torrential rain pummeling the windowpanes of the rented room. Her saturated clothing removed, she moved on creaking joints to properly hang it the currently unceremonious pile of damp clothes to hang in front of the fire. She glanced dubiously at the door that connected hers to Rory and Ripley's. Rory had insisted she have her own room.  Itching from the caked on mud, Blayre decided that a bath was in order. She hoped Ripley and Rory could behave themselves without her for a few minutes.

    The public bath was located on ground level down a back staircase that took Blayre somewhere behind the common room and kitchen area. She entered the women's bath, stripping off her fresh clothing and sinking into the mage-heated water with an audible sigh. The steam rose off the water like the fog over Blumore and Blayre submerged herself so that only her head was above water level.

    Relaxed and feeling cleaner than she had in days, she exited the baths wrapped in a robe and made her way back up the staircase to her room. She could hear muffled voices on the other side of the connecting door. It sounded as though Rory and Ripley were arguing over something.

    Blayre dressed and knocked softly on the door before letting herself into their room.

    "You are absolutely not going to sit in the common room and risk exposing yourself more. We will order your supper and bring it up to you." Ripley was saying.

    Rory ran fingers through his hair, letting out his breath in a huff. "Ripley, it is not your place to make that decision for me. It is not your place to make any decision for me." The duke's usually steady demeanor had been replaced by agitation.

    Blayre leaned, one knee bent and foot against the wall beside the door, playing with the end of her braid, hoping to make herself as inconspicuous as possible - and regretting her decision to come into their room before the bickering had resolved itself.

"What do you think?" Rory asked abruptly, his gaze resting heavily on her.

Blayre glanced blankly between Rorrick and Ripley "What do I think?" she asked, her voice incredulous.

"What she thinks hardly matters, Rory." Ripley growled. "I'm the one trying to keep your frustrating ass alive." He was nearly yelling.

How close were Ripley and Rory that the rogue mage was so comfortable speaking out against the Duke? Blayre wondered, not for the first time.

"You recommended recruiting her to help protect me, if I recall correctly." Rory shot back, running a hand through his mess of copper curls again. Soon they would be mussed beyond repair. "It stands to reason that her opinion does matter."

Blayre decided that she did not want to be on Duke Rorrick's bad side. He remained calm and poised but lethal - like a mountain cat.

"Well, first of all, I think the two of you bicker like a married couple." She let that sink in for a moment as the two men eyed each other dubiously. Rory's mouth twitched ever so slightly.

"But to the point, I think the best hiding places are in plain sight." Blayre added, ignoring Ripley's deepening scowl - it wasn't as if he ever made a pleasant face where she was involved. She returned his gaze coolly. "Rory, If you hide up here, it will be easy for someone to come looking for the reclusive man. Staff like to gossip about the different ones, not the ones who blend in with everyone else. I'll do my best to stay on high alert while we're down there." She fingered the crystal in her pocket - the one that had been lodged in Rory's arm. It gave off a faint trace of the magic that had been imparted into it from whatever mage had laid the curse. She knew soon it would be devoid of magic and she was doing her best to commit it to memory like a bloodhound retains the scent of a criminal.

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