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Music and the Mad Maudlin

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Of course, life never settled itself as neatly as it did in stories. Naitachal should have expected that, but he still found himself wondering if there would ever be a townhouse and years of happily-ever-after in their future, as with Eurosy and Oretta.

He and Eliathanis parted ways in the innyard of the Moonstone.

"You could come with me," Eliathanis said. He was eager to return to his clan and tell them that rumors of his demise were incorrect, and Naitachal could hardly blame him. If the Nithathil had close clan bonds, if Naitachal hadn't trapped his own clan in a recursive chaos gate, he might have wanted to do the same.

Instead, he'd thrown every flimsy excuse he could think of not to go. He needed to replace his lute and harp, and quality instruments were hard to come by. He needed to contact Master Aidan and the College to report what had happened. And he should probably tell Count Kevin and Lydia.

 Some losses are so raw that they leave holes we can't talk about. We can only talk around them.

Naitachal's heart squeezed around the memory of those words. He shook his head and aimed for lightness I his tone. "Hard enough to convince your clan that you're not some sort of unnatural revenant without a Dark Elf and a Necromancer at your side."

Eliathanis' gaze bored into Naitachal. "I see no Necromancers here."

"And I'm still wary after my last visit. Should your clan succeed in killing me, you've no way to bring me back from the dead. And no-one who would…" Naitachal stopped. Swallowed down his grief and guilt over Eurosy. He'd been right last night: talking wasn't a balm for this wound. Nor, it seemed, was love, or a night of sex. It wasn't Eliathanis' judgment that Naitachal feared to face, but his own.

Uncomfortable silence followed. Eliathanis broke it. "What will you do?"

Naitachal shook himself. "Travel, I suppose. There are songs out there yet to discover. I hear Portsmith is lovely, this time of year. Perhaps I'll head further north and catch a ship down to Westerin." Eurosy had packed up her house knowing she wasn't coming back, but someone should check that it was taken care of, just in case.

"Portsmith is cold, muddy, small-minded, and stinking of humans at all times of year. The Moonspirit lands are--"

Naitachal cut him off before he could ask again for Naitachal to join him. "Perhaps I'll seek out a likely boy. It's about time I took an apprentice, Eurosy said."

Bards voices weren't supposed to crack. Not ever. All Naitachal could do was pretend his hadn't.

Eliathanis had no such compunction. "Naitachal, you didn't know what she planned. Her death was no more your doing than it was mine."

"She warned me. You warned me. Everyone warned me that such things always come with a cost. I though… I thought Bardic Magic was different. I thought--"

Eliathanis stopped his words with a kiss. Naitachal shivered, slipped his hands up Eliathanis' back and clung to the kiss.

Eliathanis was the first to pull away. "Do whatever penance you feel you must. Take your apprentice and train him as Eurosy would want. When you are ready to stop punishing yourself, when you're ready for me to join you, you know where to find me."

Naitachal collected his sorrow and hid it behind a wry grin. "Perhaps I'll just leave a message here at the Moonstone. Your clan has long memories. And frighteningly good aim."

"Very well, then. I'll check every moon."

With a final touch of his finger to Eliathanis' ear, Naitachal mounted Star. The placid stallion huffed and clopped out of the innyard and onto the road.

Naitachal did not look back.