Guilt gripped Marcellus as he walked along Galeport's cobblestone street. The events of two days before still haunted him. He still remembered the fear that coursed through him when Carise seemed to have been absorbed right into the cave's wall.
Marcellus had panicked. He had screamed for Carise and threw himself against the wall, but only succeeded in injuring himself.
Some grand adventurer I turned out to be. Marcellus thought bitterly, kicking a loose stone on the street. It had taken him several long minutes before he remembered his own words from earlier. There had to have been another room on the other side of the wall, one protected by magic. A mage should have been able to open the entrance again. He had raced back to Galeport to fetch the town's healer, Romulus.
Something Marcellus knew he'd never forget was the sight of his cousin when he returned to the cave. Romulus had easily opened the magically-concealed entrance and dread struck Marcellus once he noticed his cousin slumped against some structure, unmoving. All he could think was that Carise was dead. That she died because he had a childish need to find adventure anywhere. Luckily, Carise had only been unconscious. Though she had received a nasty blow to her head, most likely from the structure she was leaning against.
Marcellus stopped, swallowing hard against the memory of where his cousin had been found. The room had been small and perfectly square. Only one thing had been in the room: an unmarked stone coffin set on a pedestal in the center of the room.
After Carise was home and healed, Marcellus had asked Romulus why the mages would have hidden away a tomb like that. Romulus said that he didn't know, that he had been unaware the place was there. He said mages magically concealed tombs all the time to protect them from grave robbers, but mages were taught where these tombs were, and they wouldn't have left the coffin uninscribed. He said it was as if mages wanted to make sure this tomb lay forgotten. The greatest curse for a person was to have one's name forgotten, for it meant one's decedents would be shamed, their lives destroyed, for the actions of that one ancestor. Whoever the person enclosed in that tomb had to have done something unthinkable to have deserved such a fate.
Marcellus sighed, pushing away his thoughts as he started down the street again, soon heading along the docks towards his uncle's inn. The sun was starting to set, and Marcellus knew that, despite the inn's small size and few tables, The Ocean's Jewel was busiest in the evening as sailors and dock workers finished business for the day. Marcellus wasn't feeling much like talking, anyway. He simply wanted to see for himself if Carise had finally woken up. Amalie told him that Clemens sent word that morning that Carise was conscious finally and was looking forward to seeing Marcellus soon. Marcellus didn't believe this. Carise should be hating him after what happened in the cave.
Marcellus stopped outside the inn, staring up at the two-story building. For a moment, he thought about turning around and heading back home. He disregarded that thought, however, knowing his wife would just send him back, or refuse to talk to him until he finally gave in.
So Marcellus straightened himself slightly and headed into the dimly-lit inn, noticing most of the tables were already full; the only one holding empty seats left was where a man eating his dinner alone, who Marcellus knew, thanks to his uncle, was Xavier.
Marcellus was his uncle was talking to two cloaked travelers, though their hoods were pushed back. From behind, Marcellus saw the woman had black hair in a braid halfway down her back and the man, who seemed to be the fighter of the two due to the bow and quiver of arrows at his side, had short, fair hair that seemed to stand out in the dim lighting of the inn.
"We only have one room to spare at the moment," Clemens was telling the travelers as Marcellus came closer.
"One's all we need," the woman said, turning to her companion with a grin. She seemed to notice Marcellus as she did, as she turned towards him, her sly grin still in her face.
"Hello, Marcellus," Clemens said with a grin and Marcellus stared at him, wondering why his uncle was being so friendly with him after that had happened, "Carise will be out in a moment, if you want to take a seat and wait for her. She's been hoping t'see you."
Marcellus, still confused as to his uncle acting as if everything were normal, also felt a wave of relief. It seemed Amalie was right and Carise was indeed awake and well.
Thanks the Ancestors. Marcellus thought. He was about to tell his uncle he was only stopping by for a moment, that he couldn't stay to talk, but Carise suddenly came out of the kitchen, carrying two mugs of ale.
"Oh, I thought you two had found a place to sit already," Carise said, talking to the travelers at the counter.
"That's fine, we can take these," the black-haired woman said happily, instantly taking the mugs from Carise and leading her companion to the only empty seats in the tavern.
Marcellus watched them for a moment before turning back to Carise, who was staring off after the travelers with an odd sort of look on her face.
"It's good to see you're doing better, Cousin," Marcellus spoke up cautiously.
Carise seemed to come out of some type of daze and looked to Marcellus and, to his complete surprise, grinned at him. After what had happened in the cave, after everything Marcellus put the girl through despite all her protests of wanting to go home, he expected hatred. He expected his cousin to glare at him, break a plate over his head, and swear to never speak to him again. For her to grin at him so warmly as if this were any normal day left Marcellus unable to think.
"Find a place to sit," Carise said, still smiling, "I'll bring you something to drink."
Before Marcellus could pull from his shock and decline, Carise was already back in the kitchen. Marcellus turned towards Clemens, hoping his uncle would have an explanation.
"She doesn't blame you," was all Clemens said, grinning himself as he nodded towards the tables in the tavern.
Marcellus shook his head in disbelief. He didn't feel like sitting near Xavier, so he took the only empty chair from the table—as the traveling couple had sat with him—and pulled the chair to one corner of the tavern, near the fireplace, and sat down.
Soon after, Carise was back out and carrying another mug of ale. She started moving nimbly around the tables with the ease gained from years as a barmaid. Marcellus noticed, however, that when Carise passed Xavier, the girl tensed and gave the man an uneasy glance that he didn't seem to notice. Marcellus glared towards the man, wondering what he had done now to give Carise trouble.
"I'm glad you came by," Carise said as she reached Marcellus and handed him the mug she carried.
"Has Xavier been bothering you?" Marcellus asked, "I noticed you seemed uncomfortable when you passed him."
Carise frowned, glancing over her shoulder towards the man, to was ignoring conversation attempts by the two travelers at his table.
"He's been no worse than usual," Carise said, turning back to Marcellus, though her tone gave away there was something more.
"Cousin, whatever it is, you can tell me."
Carise looked uncomfortable, lowering her head and picking at a spot on her apron.
"You'll just think I've gone crazy," she said quietly. Marcellus stared at her.
"You know me better than that," he said.
Carise sighed, closing her eyes for a moment. When she opened them again, she still hadn't looked up from her apron.
"It's only started today," Carise finally said, "But every time I get close to Xavier...It's hard to explain. I get this...Odd feeling. Like there's something about him that's...I don't know...Different than others. It makes me on edge, as if it's not safe around him."
Marcellus noticed Carise's expression became one of annoyed embarrassment. He knew she felt awkward admitting this.
"I don't know why this started, or how," Carise continued, "But I don't like it. Even stranger...The same thing happened when Romulus was here to check up on me this morning."
Marcellus immediately thought about the cave. He found it odd that Carise began having this odd sense, as it were, right after recovering from her accident. He almost brought it up, but stopped himself. Carise had never wanted to go to that cave in the first place. Marcellus had dragged the girl along with a promise to stop his 'adventures'—a promise he intended on keeping—and she was forging him for the accident. He had no idea why, and he wasn't about to push his luck with bringing up his theory. If he let Carise know he thought her problem was connected to the cave, he was sure she'd forget about forgiveness and hate him for life. He knew he'd deserve it, but his selfishness made him keep from accepting it.
One of the women nearby called for more mead and Carise grinned at Marcellus, then turned and hurried off across the room.
Marcellus watched his cousin as she worked, not bothering to drink the ale he had in his hands. He couldn't help but marvel at how easily Carise was mobbing around, no signs showing she suffered a head injury just days before. Magic was a strange and marvelous thing in Rothora.
Again, Marcellus wondered if this had any connection to the new senses Carise was having. The girl was in no way a mage, but Marcellus had heard legends of lingering effects after a person had gone under strenuous healing or spent a prolonged amount of time around magic—most being stories of non-mages who spent years in the isolated Mageton in the mountains.
At least all the stories show the effects are temporary. Marcellus told himself.
Carise was not at the table with Xavier and the two travelers, cleaning the dishes from their meal as Xavier was saying something—complaining, judging from Carise's tense face and the annoyed looks of the travelers. Marcellus always admired how long Carise could hold her temper—though it often led to much louder yelling when she finally did let off her frustrations.
Xavier made one last comment and rose to his feet, turning from Carise, which blocked her from Marcellus's view. The man dusted something off his arm and started to adjust the gloves he always wore when he suddenly got an odd look on his face and both of the travelers looked confused, staring towards Carise. Xavier opened his mouth and turned around, but never got a word out as the tavern suddenly became very silent. An instant later, Xavier went limp, falling to the ground, and Marcellus could see blood pooling from the man's throat.
A cold numbness washed over Marcellus as he stared down at Xavier's body. As if in a trance, he slowly looked up in disbelief as he saw Carise standing over Xavier, a bloody knife in her hand and wearing a cruel smile that seemed unnatural on her usually kind and gentle face.