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Nov 25, 2020 5:34 AM
volare AU where leareth comes back without a broken lifebond
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Essi kneels under a tree, accepting its meagre shelter; it's not raining now, but it might later. And it'll probably frost tonight. He needs a fire.

He starts gathering wood together. 

...He doesn't have a flint and steel with him. And he doesn't at all know how to use his fledgling mage-gift. But he'll try. 

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- and he comes rushing back into the world, confused, disoriented, pulling together the shreds of memory.

A tower against the stars - a devastated wasteland - never to die never to walk away as long as it takes -

A snow-covered mountain pass in the far north, and a man dressed in white, his black hair streaked with silver. 

A young woman, and there's nothing all that extraordinary about her features but somehow her face is the most beautiful one in the world.

Belrun. He remembers her name even before he remembers his own. She was a Healer. Flashes of chicken eggs. A building in Rethwellan, exploding. Sitting together, talking over - something - both of them upset and apologizing...

- sending her fleeing to safety, promising he would come back and find her, calling down Final Strike to cover her escape - 

His name was Leareth. When the memory comes to him, it's of her voice speaking his name. 

They were lifebonded. 

He remembers her almost more clearly than he remembers the tower and Urtho, and it hurts, but - in a normal way, not a piece ripped out of his mind's foundation. 

Not like what she must be feeling right now, if in fact she made it out alive (and he should be able to think about the world where she didn't, but he flinches away from it...)

...

Focus. 

He's in Rethwellan right now; the bits and pieces of Essi, the child whose body he took, remember that. (A quiet murmur of regret, an apology to nothing, a promise to himself that someday somehow he will fix it...) 

North. He needs to get north, find his people, and then he can figure out what to do about Belrun. 

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The weather is indifferent to Leareth's thoughts. It starts sleeting. 

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Leareth looks at the pile of firewood, and starts a fire. 

...

He can't remember any Gate locations after the transition between bodies. It takes him three weeks of travel on a stolen donkey, eating what he can steal or scavenge, before he reaches his people in the north. 

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Nayoki is so incredibly relieved when he finally stumbles up to one of the northern sentry-points, gives the right confirmation of his identity, and is shortly later Gated to the usual facility. 

She has a letter for him. It's from Belrun. 

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Dear Leareth,

We were lifebonded.

I don't know in what state this letter will find you. Maybe you have a broken lifebond, like me, in which case I'm waiting for you at my mother's home in Petras and am ready to come back to you as soon as you reach your people and receive this message. But maybe you don't. Maybe you have a clean slate to work from, in which case you need all the information relevant to deciding what to do. I'm not dying. We didn't ask to be lifebonded in the first place and I'm not going to insist, if you can now not be.

I'm not sure how comprehensive your notes are so I'm just including everything since we met.

You were in Petras on a recruitment trip...

--

...where we were ambushed by some monsters later identified to me as a variant on wyrsa. I got away on Amshalan. You were of the opinion that it was a god objecting to the prospect of an alliance with Valdemar. It would probably have killed me too if not for Amshalan; I wonder if the god didn't see that part coming, as it must have looked unlikely. I think you called a Final Strike to prevent them from chasing me. You asked me to wait for you. We ran till Nayoki caught up with us...

--

I told Nayoki I couldn't stay, and I think she thought it was something about reminders of you, but it's not. You might come back without any mind control and if you do I can't be anywhere you have to go, it's only fair for it to be up to you. I'm keeping busy and I am not dying.

But if you're going to come get me I would appreciate it if you hurried.

Love, Belrun

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Leareth sits, alone, in the bedroom that's been kept aired out and ready for him, and reads the letter several times through. Nayoki's already digging up his recent notes and records for him, but the letter is honestly a better introductory summary. 

Eventually he gets out a piece of paper and starts drafting a reply. The draft ends up full of crossed-out lines and insertions. He goes through three pieces of paper before he has a clean final version. 

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And shortly later the letter is being delivered via Gate to a particular house in Rethwellan.

...

Dear Belrun,

I am back, and I do not have a broken lifebond. 

I am not sure what most makes sense to do, here. I think it depends on what the Power that caused our lifebond wished to do with it, and unfortunately neither of us has that information, or an easy route to obtaining it. Given that, I cannot responsibly decide on the spot to return to you; I am sorry. 

That being said, I have not decided not to either. I love you, and having you as a trusted ally in my work was immensely valuable to me. I notice myself wanting it to be true that the correct strategic move is to come find you. Of course, wanting this to be true will not make it so, and I need to lay out all of the considerations here and make a reasoned choice. 

I will begin doing that on my own over here, but if you have any thoughts on the matter I would appreciate hearing them. 

I am sorry that I was insufficiently paranoid and let myself be murdered and left you alone. 

Love,

Leareth

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When Belrun gets this letter she reads it nine times and sobs onto Amshalan's shoulder and cancels everything for the day to do more of both those things.

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The letter includes a way to reply (bring it to this location in the city, where Leareth has an agent who can contact someone for a Gate), but Leareth isn't expecting a reply right away and possibly not for days. 

He waits. With a surprising amount of anxiety about what response he'll receive. He spends the time rereading Belrun's letter, and skimming over his notes and records, and rereading Belrun's letter, and catching up with the various staff in his organization, and rereading Belrun's letter yet again. He misses her. Apparently not having a broken lifebond doesn't do anything to interfere with missing someone. 

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She eventually pulls herself together enough for a reply.

Dear Leareth,

I love you. I miss you.

I think my understanding of the considerations at play hasn't changed much since I wrote my original letter. I am managing to do some research, if not very creatively, and Vanyel's proof of concept that I should be able to get more functional over time. I believe it was useful to be able to send me to Valdemar as a diplomatic envoy but the acute need for that has passed. I guess I'm less of a liability than we initially supposed if you don't have a broken lifebond when you come back, meaning that if you t we re-bond anything happening to me will only temporarily trouble you, (plus all the other mess associated with coming back). If I didn't think it could easily be that you shouldn't collect me immediately I would have waited for you up north.

I don't know who set us up. Do you have a guess who killed you, though? Presumably they'd have been able to see if that would result in you being broken-lifebonded or not so you could try to draw inferences from that.

Love, Belrun

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Dear Belrun,

Given the use of wyrsa, which are native to the Pelagirs, my main suspicion is on the Star-Eyed Goddess, though the area is somewhat closer to Iftel which hints at Vkandis perhaps being involved as well. I mainly take this as weak evidence that They were not behind the original lifebond, since I have particularly strong reason to believe that They are against my work, and it does not appear that the lifebond scheme is a very effective way of incapacitating me, even if the original goal involved killing you and not me. This may be some indication that whichever Power did set it up is not as opposed to me, if the assassination attempt was a difficult god's work, but that is a tenuous inference given how little I know here. 

I miss you.

Love,

Leareth

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This doesn't really call for a response. She writes I love you and then doesn't send it because that's all she has down and seems like a waste of a trip.

She hugs Amshalan a lot.

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Leareth thinks about what to do. 

It's an unusually difficult problem to think about, because of the part where he wants reality to be a certain way, and so keeps needing to double and triple-check his reasoning on everything related. 

I suspect that whichever god is behind the Companions, he writes to Belrun, likely the more hands-off god of the Valdemar and Rethwellan regions, was also responsible for your bond to Amshalan. It is less clear if the same party was also involved with the lifebond, but I weakly suspect so. I am planning to write to Vanyel asking if Rolan can attempt to speak to Them and find out more about Their involvement and plans, or knowledge of any other gods' plans; I will also ask if Vanyel has any other ideas for contacting gods. The gods seem to dislike him less than They dislike me, after all. 

I continue to love and miss you so much. 

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That seems like a good idea. Amshalan and I can ride up there if having us present in person is useful for Rolan or anything.

I love you.

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Leareth is not very comfortable at the idea of Belrun in Haven where the Heartstone is, but he still includes it in the letter to Vanyel, since they had judged her previous visit to Haven worth the risk and, in fact, Haven wasn't where (most of) the bad things happened. 

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Vanyel replies promptly, promising to ask Rolan and also adding that, if Rolan doesn't play along, he has another idea for getting a conversation with a god.

(He does not say what the idea is because nobody is going to like it.)

For now he doesn't think it's necessary to drag Belrun to Haven but he'll keep in mind that she's willing to come. 

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Leareth relays this on to Belrun.

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She confirms receipt of the letter and now has a piece of paper with I love you and nothing else written on it several times, it's more efficient that way.

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Vanyel sends a reply with an apology; Rolan apparently still doesn't want to or doesn't think it's worthwhile to attempt a conversation with the god who even he doesn't know the identity of. 

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Later that same day, Leareth receives a furious letter from Herald-Mage Savil, demanding to know if he's responsible for Vanyel 'idiotically trying to kill himself in order to yell at a god.'

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Leareth is so confused! 

He writes back to Savil with a copy of his exact letter to Vanyel enclosed; he can guess now what the relation is between these two things but he certainly didn't have an inkling of it until now. 

He also writes to Belrun, summarizes the news from Savil, and says that it might be a good idea for her to consider going to Haven given that things seem to be ending up very complicated. 

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She acknowledges this.

Rana helps her pack. She saddles up Amshalan.

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Savil replies shortly, with a curt confirmation of having received Leareth's letter, and acknowledgement that if they want, it might be helpful to have Belrun over in person again, but Petras isn't within her Gate-range. 

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Leareth directs a mage to Rana's house in Petras to collect Belrun if she's still up for going. 

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That works too if they want to save Amshalan the run. Through she goes.

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