Beisid is awoken by frantic shaking. Alarmed, she grabs her assailant's hand, pulls him closer, finds his throat with her other hand… and it is only Fray.
He seems quite unbothered by her display; only stares at her with wide gray eyes.
Beisid gets out of bed and pulls on a thick robe. Despite her apparent age, she moves very lightly and quickly.
"Fray, what's wrong?"
Of course, he doesn't tell her. Only runs off, beckoning worriedly.
Is he acting guilty?!
Spirits sinking, Beisid follows.
She is led to the stables. Of course. But what…then she hears one of the horses make a very distressed sound.
When Beisid rushes over to the animal's stall, she finds it lying on the straw, breathing heavily.
Fray hands her a broken vial and puts his hands over his face.
"Not horse," he says quickly. "Person. Give this. Won't drink. I help. Not want. Box break halfway. I'M SORRY BEISID. I'M SORRY."
Beisid runs out of the stables, to her studio. She has many minutes before she has to worry about permanent damage, but she doesn't want the animal suffering. Animal, or...
When she returns with her supplies, Fray is gone. Seemingly. Beisid kneels down and puts her hand on the horse's muzzle, reciting words of power. It starts to calm, against its will. When she tilts its head back and puts a vial to its mouth, it does not protest.
She feels Fray's eyes on her. She KNOWS he's here.
"Shhh," she tells the horse, stroking its nose. "Shhhhhhh."
At first, it seems like the potion has simply returned the horse to good health.
Then it shudders.
And starts to change.
Beisid draws in her breath.
As per the function of the potion she used, this horse is changing into whatever form it naturally ought to be. Fray was right – right about it not being a horse, at any rate.
Whose horse is this?
The man who brought Jaisey.
Beisid…foresees an interesting conversation in her future.
She has already looked away from the writhing form in the straw; she calls out, speaking softly, gently.
"It will be over soon."
"FRAY, make yourself useful and get some clothes for this poor fellow."
A faint flurry of straw.
Movement out of the corner of her eye.
The creak of the door.
"You're not in trouble," she calls after her friend. "Not as much as you're afraid of, anyway!"
When the "horse's" movements quiet down, Beisid ventures a look.
Instead of a horse, there is a short man with light brown hair lying face down in the straw. His hands are clenching and unclenching; he's breathing very slowly and evenly, controlled, like breathing is the only thing keeping him from screaming.
"Hello," Beisid says gently – cautiously. "My name is Beisid. I am a witch; I run this inn. Who are you?"
The man only shakes his head.
A rustle of fabric – a pile of clothes falls from the rafters, falls onto the man. He yelps and tries to get away.
"Fray," Beisid says sternly, not looking up.
Soon enough, Fray is beside her.
"Beisid," he says.
"Fray," Beisid says. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Fray's eyes widen. He looks uncomfortable.
Beisid gets up – "I'll let you change," she tells the man. She closes the stall door and takes Fray aside.
"You should have told me," she says. "Why did you try to help this person by yourself?"
He looks at his feet and shakes his head rapidly.
"Fray, what's wrong?" Beisid asks.
"Customer always right," he mumbles, parroting back something she has told him before.
Beisid frowns, surprised. Puts a hand to her mouth.
"You think I wouldn't change the horse back because that Zornigan fellow brought him…and maybe wanted him like that…?"
"Fray!" Beisid says. "I'm just a bit nicer than all that, really!"
"Ok," Fray says. He sounds more diplomatic than convinced.
Beisid puts a hand on Fray's shoulder, and he covers it with one of his hands – an I still love you kind of gesture.
"Presentable yet?" Beisid calls over her shoulder.
"Sure," croaks a rusty, unused voice full of fear.
Beisid comes back over to the stall, and Fray follows.
"Zornigan doesn't know," the man says. He is huddled in the corner, looking miserable.
"What happened?" Beisid asks.
"I can't say," the man says, shaking his head. A knot in the wood of the stable wall holds his attention.
"You can't say?" Beisid asks.
"No," the man says simply.
"Why not?" Beisid asks.
The man only shakes his head.
"I want to help you," Beisid says.
"No one can help me," the man says. "You shouldn't have changed me back. If you wouldn't mind… could you… make me…"
He doesn't want to say it.
"Make me a horse again?" he finally musters.
Fray's ears go back; Beisid can see this out of the corner of her eyes.
"Why do you want to be a horse again?" Beisid asks.
"I can't say," the man says, putting a hand over his mouth.
Fray comes into the stall and starts to look him over ("FRAY!" Beisid says.).
"Hey! Get away from me!" the man says, pushing him away.
"Fray," Beisid says, in a warning tone that is quieter and more commanding than before. She steps forward; Fray climbs up onto the low wall of the stall, turns around, looks at her.
Beisid looks back at him.
Fray somehow climbs from the stall wall to a rafter. Walks along the rafter and climbs back down. Reappears by Beisid's side. She shakes her head and turns back to the stranger.
"You can't tell me anything at all about what happened or who you are," Beisid says, "you only wish for me to turn you back into a horse, though it will make you unhappy?"
"Yes," the man says quietly. "If you can."
"May I bring Zornigan here?" Beisid asks.
The man doesn't seem to know what to say.
"I'd rather you didn't," he says finally. "I don't want him to know."
"I'm not going to turn you into a horse just because you tell me to," Beisid says sternly. "If you won't give me a good reason, maybe Zornigan will. If no one will, I won't do it."
"You'd do best not to look into this anymore," the man says urgently. "Please. I think you're a nice person; please, don't get involved."
"You are afraid of a criminal organization?" Beisid asks.
The man can't answer her.
"Punishment," Fray says.
Beisid looks at him, surprised that he's chosen to contribute to a conversation involving more people than him and herself.
Fray stares back. Then puts his hands above his head, cupped like horse's ears.
"Were you changed into a horse as a punishment?" Beisid asks the man gently. "Are you worried what will happen to you if they find out you escaped it?"
The man doesn't seem to know if he can nod, but he does anyway.
Beisid is deep in thought.
Fray looks smug for having guessed right; Beisid is too busy thinking to enlighten him of proper manners.
"I'd like to talk to Zornigan about this, if that's alright," Beisid says.
"Please don't," the man says.
"I want to let you stay a man, if at all possible," Beisid says. "I think Zornigan can help."
"You don't know him," the man says.
"And he doesn't know me," Beisid says simply.
The man doesn't seem to know what to say. He's clearly been through quite a bit. He doesn't look like he has much energy for anything, anymore.
"You really…want to help me?"
"I do," Beisid says.
"You have no reason to, I don't…"
"No one deserves to be changed into a horse and used as one," Beisid says. "Maybe I'll end up sorry for helping you; you wouldn't be the first person I've helped where that's happened. I try to do good anyway, where I can."
She finds she is looking at Fray when she says this; she turns back to the man in the straw.
"Besides," she continues. "Fray doesn't like to come close to people who are truly corrupt. Whoever you are, you can't be that bad."
"Him?" the man asks, pointing. His tone is not pleasant, and Fray snaps at him – a little click of teeth.
"Yes," Beisid says. "I never introduced him, did I. Apologies. This is Fray, my assistant. I don't think I caught your name; care to introduce yourself?"
"I'd rather not," the man says. In his mind, it seems he has doomed himself to life as a horse.
"Socks," Fray says, pulling his arms close to himself and waving his hands like little flippers – or hooves, as context would suggest.
Beisid shoves him. "FRAY."
But the man actually laughs. Keeps laughing. Trails off, hugs his knees and buries his face in his arms.
"Can you bring Zornigan here?" she whispers to Fray.
Fray nods, a quick jerk of his head.
"Nicely," Beisid says.
Another brisk nod.
"If you don't get him nicely, you can't come inside until tomorrow night," Beisid says warningly.
Fray gives her a quick peck on the cheek and is gone.
Beisid can't help but smile. Then she starts to enter the stall – keeps coming when her newest guest does not protest. Squats down next to him.
"Can I get you anything to eat?"
The man shakes his head.
"Are you sure?"
"Can I get you anything?"
He shakes his head.
"I've sent Fray to get Zornigan," Beisid says. "I want to help you."
It takes a while, but the man finally nods.
Beisid puts a hand on his shoulder.
"I want to help you."
She can't shake the feeling that this life will turn out very badly for her, one day. She can't expect to help everyone. She can't expect to be always thanked and never harmed. Especially considering the kinds of people in need of help that she runs into. She knows human nature.
But she remembers life… from before.
How unlikely it was to find anyone who would help a witch. Accept a witch.
Sometimes, she finds that she has helped a person who never expected anyone to help them. A person like she used to be. She never got the help she was looking for; somehow her life led her here. She led herself here. Whenever she is able to aid one like she used to be, she finds the greatest satisfaction she has ever known.
She will continue this life until she can't anymore, no matter the consequences.
It is her meaning and purpose, and she will not abandon it.
She sits with her guest until Fray returns with Zornigan.
Beisid is proud of Fray. Zornigan does not look annoyed as he comes over to where she and the brown-haired man are sitting.
"I know you," Zornigan says, startled. "I've seen you before, from somewhere…"
The man doesn't say anything.
Zornigan hands Beisid a note, and she recognizes Fray's handwriting instantly as she reads it.
Fray has explained that Zornigan's horse is really a person, that Beisid wants to talk about things, and that Beisid is a witch – a nice one. Not a bad starting point, when you overlook the bad spelling and utter disregard for grammar. Good job, Fray.
"He says he was transformed as a punishment," Beisid tells Zornigan. "He thinks he was safer as a horse; wanted me to change him back."
Zornigan looks downright scared, now.
"We worked together, once," he says. "That's where I've seen you, right? What was your name again… you were one of their accountants?"
The man doesn't say anything.
"They did this to you?" Zornigan asks.
When the man doesn't answer, Zornigan squats down, bringing his scowling face on the same level –
"They did, they did," the man says hurriedly. "I'm not going to tell you why, but they did! It's as the witch says!"
Thinks for a moment.
"Well!" he says, standing up. "I think I quit! I don't like the idea that my status as a human being is up to other people. Thanks, bud. Owe y' one."
"They'll come after you!" the man says.
"And they'll be a lot more concerned about finding me than they'll be about finding you," Zornigan says. "Looks like I've repaid any debt I owe you already. Congratulations, you get to be a person for forever… and I know to leave before something like that happens to me! I think this calls for a celebration: I'm tired, good night everyone, I'm going to bed."
"Who are these people?" Beisid asks Zornigan.
"Bad people," Zornigan says, almost theatrically. "Dirty, rotten, mean people. Just look at Pony McNameless, here."
"Don't go just yet!" Beisid says, but he's already on his way out; the stable door closes before she can come up with anything else to say.
Then Fray comes over to her, and she realizes that he'd been hanging out in the rafters, while Zornigan was there.
Cenwood gets a room in the inn. Cries himself to sleep.
Dagral wanted him like that.
Dagral will find out.
His fears are quite unfounded. Not only does Dagral regret the action, mostly, but... at the moment… he is also quite occupied with other things.
Also tonight, but far away from Cenwood's location: Dagral finds sleep predictably impossible. Again, he leaves his quarters to walk restlessly through the fortress - another visit to his father's grave.