Belrun is so close to getting this damned flu strain to calm down in this one egg. She copies the change across to a few more eggs' worth, iterates, writes everything down, and Fetches the egg that is getting scary into her pot of simmering water before it makes a break for it. It's getting on toward dark and if she keeps working she's going to have to do it by candlelight, and she doesn't like that - it's already too easy to bump into things when she can see them. She calls it a day and closes up the lab for the night and heads out to walk over to the university cafeteria. It's a nice evening, and it's Flatbread Night, and she's in a generally good mood.
"All right, thank you," maybe once she's not in the room anymore the Wild Gift or whatever it is will stop affecting him and he can figure out how to shield against it properly before she gets back. Avoiding her would be another option but - he really does want to hear more about her research - seems pretty unlikely he can recruit her or that it would even make sense to do so with his current plans but it's weirdly tempting...
She pats his arm again on his way out.
She isn't back after dinner.
Leareth has spent the afternoon mostly thinking.
At first it seems like it's fine now that she's left. Leareth can focus on wrangling someone into sending a message to the mage-school, getting in a conversation with his contact there. She's pretty shaken up about being next to a large explosion, which doesn't incline her to leaving right away even for a very exciting project. Leareth tells her this is very understandable and he can send someone to check in with her in six months or so.
...He's still thinking about Belrun. Including facts about Belrun that aren't at all related to whether it's worth trying to recruit her. Like her hair. Why is he thinking about her hair. It's not like it's shockingly unusual in some way. His mind keeps tugging back to how she skillfully helped him keep his balance on the hallway walk and that's not interesting, she's a Healer, obviously she knows how to do that–
When the hypothesis occurs to him, he is immediately kicking himself that he didn't think of it yesterday. To be fair, the reason he didn't think of it yesterday is because it feels shockingly low probability. He can't confirm or deny it for sure from here, from introspection alone it's going to be difficult to pick apart 'bizarre Wild Gift' from 'the gods are messing with him again and this time their strategy is a lifebond.'
It's been less than a full day – if he skips town right away it probably won't get worse–
–but that feels very unfair to her, he should at least warn her or explain or something (definitely this is not just an excuse to see her face again...fine there is probably some element of that too, that doesn't mean it's not also the pragmatic thing to do.)
When she doesn't come back after dinner, it takes him a shockingly short amount of time to start panicking about it. (Stupid fledgling lifebond, making him feel emotions that he isn't deciding to feel, this is very frustrating.)
–can he feel her at all? On the one hand it's bad news if he can because it means he can no longer solve this by running away - but if he can't it might mean that she's dead because that was the gods' plan, and even though that would sort of be good news in the sense that he's not in horrible pain over it and therefore the gods mistimed it as an attempt to incapacitate him, it would also mean she was dead and that is very unacceptable.
It's faint through all the shields but she is not dead!
She is instead very upset!
Shitshitshit what are they doing to her - this is also completely unacceptable - if the plot was to capture her and torture her or something then Leareth is furious about it, and the fact that this isn't an emotion he's deciding to have or would normally feel about it doesn't matter.
He gets up; he's still feeling a bit shaky but he can walk fine and he can fight if he has to. Should he be calling in backup? Maybe not quite yet, figure out what's going on first and then he'll know what kind of reinforcements he needs to Gate in and won't end up doing it twice.
"You feeling better?" asks Dallar from down the hall.
(BELRUN REMAINS VERY UPSET.)
"Very much. Thank you. I need to - run an errand..." He flees before anyone can try to decide he's not allowed to.
Dallar doesn't chase him.
Belrun and all her being very upset arrrrre - that way!
Then he will head that way! Not quite running because if he's about to end up in a fight he would rather not be out of breath going into it. Fortunately it seems like she's not too far.
Leareth scans the area for nodes, finds several. There are a lot of other mages in the city who will wonder what's going on but that's fine. He won't be sticking around for them to ask questions, he's going to get her out of here and bring her somewhere safe up north where the gods don't have any foothold– It occurs to him that she probably won't be very happy about this, but he can explain after, he can set her up with everything she needs to keep doing her research–
Belrun is in that library over there.
She is alone and unharmed and sobbing into her arms in a carrel full of books titled things like Lifebonds and The Deepest Love and Magical Bonds Compared.
...This makes a lot of sense, because she's smart.
Leareth tosses up shields around that corner of the library and skims the surface thoughts of anyone who isn't shielding to check that, no, it doesn't seem like any of them are here with the intention of assassinating her. Then he approaches.
"Belrun? It appears we have both had the same realization."
"Mrrrrg," she says into her elbow unhappily.
"It appears you are not any more pleased about it than I am." Whyyy does he want to hug her about it, as a general rule Leareth does not hug people.
"This guy," she lifts her head enough to talk and taps Magical Bonds Compared, "thinks it's too late, but it wouldn't have been if I hadn't stayed up so late last night that I didn't write in my journal before going to bed and had noticed then and immediately fled the city, so, sorry, I'm an idiot."
"I also suspect it is too late, judging by the fact that I was able to find you here. I apologize for not realizing last night or sooner today – I noticed something odd but I thought you had some kind of Wild Gift with mind-effects and that shielding would correct it. I placed - very low priors - on this being the explanation, but in hindsight I think that was incorrect. What caused you to notice?"
He is bizarrely curious about what she's thinking - no, fine, it isn't confusing at all, it's just, lifebond.
"Nobody came to my office hours so I had a minute where I wasn't busy to think literally at all? It's not subtle once I'm not in 'don't lean into the unprofessional opinion on the patient while on the job' mode."
"I think you were quicker on the uptake than I was. I am impressed." Is that because it's objectively impressive or because he's apparently lifebonded to her and likely to find anything she does impressive? No, actually, this does look like an unusual level of self-awareness.
She faceplants on the desk again. "Thanks," she says, muffled.
Leareth glances around, puts up a sound-barrier around them so that librarian over there won't listen in on this next part. "This is extremely inconvenient and not what either of us wanted to happen but we need to decide what to do based on the fact that it did happen. I am very sorry about this but I have reason to think this could mean you are in danger. This is unfair to you, it would be as a plot against me, but – I do not think I can ensure your safety in this city and therefore I think you need to leave."
(He definitely could just yoink her through a Gate right this second before doing the explanations part, that would be best for safety margin, except, no he cannot actually do that, because his brain is screaming at him that it would be disrespectful and she would be justifiably even more upset and furious and - apparently that's enough of a reason to stop him.)
"Couldn't we just not tell anybody? I haven't told anybody, have you been shouting from rooftops - why are you in this city if people plotting against you are around and you can't ensure a person's safety here -"
That's a very reasonable reaction, really. "I am not talking about people. I have not told anyone, obviously, and as far as I know there is nobody plotting against me specifically in this city," although if he's right about the scheme here, there could be all sorts of threats he's unaware of. "There are - other forces - that have certain opinions about my activities, and I am sure They would think a lifebond was a very clever trick to stop me, and...I would rather not explain everything here in a public location."
Great, she's lifebonded to a guy with paranoid delusions. "Where would you rather talk? I have a dorm room but the soundproofing isn't great."
"Can I Gate you to a place outside the city where nobody knows to look for you?" She's probably going to say no. Very understandably.
"I realize it would be very stupid of you to murder me but that leaves lots of options so I would sooner you did not do that, no."
"Fair enough. We can go to your dorm room." And he'll put lots of shields around it and be ready to drop her through a Gate the instant anything so much as twitches in her direction.