"You know what the worst part is?" babbled Inkyrius, picking distractedly at the now-empty bottle of Elven Ale. "It isn't the sense of betrayal. It's the lack of acknowledgment. As if my feelings weren't even a factor to be considered. You know what I mean?"

The dark stranger said nothing, so Inkyrius continued.

"Making deals with fiends for your very soul? That's something I could forgive, given time. It would hurt, but it's something we could work through. I could do what I can to bring the old Suvie back, the one I fell in love with. Or… or, if that didn't work, maybe I could learn to accept the new one." Inkyrius gave a sad little laugh. "I mean, I'm a committer, you know? I'm willing to do what it takes to make a relationship work, even if it means loving someone evil. But it takes two."

Inkyrius met the stranger's eyes, but quickly looked away. There was something about that gaze that still wasn't entirely comfortable. The slate-black face just took everything in, neither judging nor approving, just eager to listen. Wanting to know everything.

"Why am I pouring my heart out like this to someone I just met?" The ale was part of it, of course, but only part. Once the words had started flowing, the need to just talk to someone was overpowering. Vaarsuvius used to listen like this, and the dark, white-haired stranger looked so much like the old, not-possessed-by-fiends Vaarsuvius it was uncanny.

"At any rate, I'd better be going home. It's getting late, and I've got to get up early in the morning to fill the lembas order for the orphanage…"


It was barely a whisper, but Inkyrius stopped cold, unable to muster any resistance. The stranger's hand was resting on Inkyrius' (how long had it been there?), and it might as well have been a chain of iron.

"What.. what is it? Do you want something?" Inkyrius quavered, unaccountably trembling.

"Yes." The stranger leaned closer, hand brushing arm, lips almost touching pointed ear, and whispered "Revenge."

Inkyrius shuddered at the realization that the stranger wasn't a stranger at all, that there was already a connection. "You mean… Vaarsuvius?"

"Hurt me. Hurt you." There was fire in that quiet voice as it said "Hurt back."

An inner voice screamed "You're being used!" but another said "Isn't that what you want? To matter to someone else, to be a part of their plans?" And the stranger's embrace felt so much like Suvie's, but so much better, more… how did the poet put it? Full of passionate intensity…

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