Part of the Through A Glass, Darkly Arc
Summary: Mayor Uma visits Talyara, who is convalescing after being abducted and tortured by witch hunters, no doubt led by Cramer. While Talyara's recollection is only of limited utility, the women agree that it's time for the witches to roll up their sleeves and fight back, even if it means getting their hands dirty.
Cenril Healing Clinic
I do not know if you remember me, but my name is Talyara and I was one of the witches who helped bring back the beloved Valrae and was there the night we met under the moon.
I am writing to you from a cot at the healing clinic here in Cenril, to warn you. It appears that Cramer and his witch hunters are not idle. Last week I was ambushed outside of my home in Frostmaw, beaten and taken to an encampment somewhere across the sea. I was further tortured for information about who leads us, who we all are, and what we are plotting. After my refusal to give them what they sought, they kidnapped my sister, Lanara, and held her captive as well, hoping to use her as leverage to force my tongue. Thankfully, and by the grace of the Goddess, we were able to escape alive, without them learning anything.
Most of the encampment did not know of our escape but I cannot imagine that they will just shrug it off as a lost cause. Please, I implore you to move cautiously.
Talyara could hardly believe that it had been ten days since she had been saved from the encampment of witch hunters. It had been a rough few days initially--her anxiety surrounding Lanara's wounds coupled with trying to deal with her own injuries kept her mind occupied. At around day five, the healers and doctors began to allow Taly to move around a bit more, to exercise her legs without exacerbating her broken ribs. The bruising around her abdomen and face had begun to shift to a more yellowish, green hue around the edges, hinting at the start of healing. Still, she looked quite broken and weak, her cheeks slightly sunken in despite the swelling due to the fact that the little witch was barely eating. Around day seven, despite her own severe injuries, most notably a severed achilles tendon, Lanara checked herself out of the clinic against healers' (and Talyara's) wishes. While she wished her sister to remain to order to continue her healing, Taly assumed that she was merely going to her home with Elioyahazer which was close by in Cenril, and thus was close enough to come back if need be. There wasn't much more the doctors could do for Talyara's broken ribs and eye socket, nor the various abrasions and contusions which told the tale of her capture and subsequent torture; however, the concern centered around the cut in her right forearm. Not only was the injury horrific in its own right (Galath had carved the letters W I T C H in her flesh) but despite their best efforts they could not get the bleeding to stop. So the little witch continued to lay in the clinic, constantly having to take blood replenishing potions and being restitched every other day, as different healers and doctors attempt to figure out how to heal this wound. The day Lanara left the clinic was the day Taly had sent off a letter to Mayor Abelin to warn her of what had happened with her kidnapping. She didn't trust sending warnings any further from Cenril lest they be intercepted--she'd figure out how to warn the others once she was released. Krice was ever diligent, remaining at her side throughout the duration of her stay; however, she knew it wasn't healthy for him to keep vigil at her cot continuously. Assuring the warrior that she would be safe here at the clinic with the healers, she requested he go bring her some fish chowder from the local restaurant--she wasn't hungry but she felt the fresh air would do him well. "Well that's it for today, Taly," Darius, the little witch's doctor, says with a heavy sigh, finishing the last stitch on her arm before beginning to wrap it in a fresh bandage.
Mayor Uma Abelin had been busy continuously putting out the fire that was Alvina Landon's arrest when she received the note from Talyara. Uma had felt her stomach drop out from beneath her. While she was (still) safely ensconced in her office of Mayor, it was as if she getting hit on all sides. It was truly as if something evil conspired against the peace and stability in Cenril right now. Her hands shaking, she'd put down Talyara's note and excused herself to 'take a walk and long lunch,' which her chief of staff had supported as a good idea to get away from all the stress.
What Uma does in actuality, however, is go to the healing clinic, where after a small wait - no doubt for Talyara's wound changing to be completed - she is admitted to see Talyara. Her quick stride in a decent-sized heel can be heard clicking against the tiled floor well before she reaches Talyara's cot.
"By the goddess, Talyara," she breathes, her tired gaze taking in the appearance of the other woman. A chair is brought for her. "Thank you," she bids the nurse, smiling warmly to a certain effect until the attendants take the hint and move away to create a modicum of privacy. She promptly sits, tucking her dress beneath her. "I got your note," she addresses the other witch. "I'm very glad you both escaped." Uma looks pained. "I want you to know that we'll do everything we can to arrest and prosecute those responsible. I want you to meet with some guards and provide a composite sketch. Do you think you can do that?"
Talyara hears the clacking of heels against the floor but doesn't look up initially--she had expected it to be another healer or specialist come to give their opinion about the wound in her arm. However, as Uma walks in, Taly's emerald eyes widen in surprise. "Mayor Abelin!" The little witch waits until a chair is brought and the curtains are drawn given the pair a bit of privacy. "You didn't need to come..." she trails off as she moves to adjust herself on the bed to sit up more properly, wincing in the process. When the mayor assures that they will arrest and prosecute those responsible for her and Lanara's kidnapping, she smiles sadly. "I would be happy to do that for you, but I must confess that the main witch hunter responsible for my capture is dead. There were a group of them who ambushed me outside of my home in Frostmaw but once we arrived at their encampment, the man was pretty much the only one I got a good look at."
Uma waves off any suggestion that she neednt have shown up. This is serious. Cramer and his people were not merely all talk, they were beyond spreading their poisonous words and into hurting people now. Interesting development that their range now extends to Frostmaw. She'd have to mention it to her allies there. Unfortunately, Talyara's news means that their ability to cut this off at the source is limited. Uma frowns, muttering a curse and shaking her head at the unluckiness of it. "It's understandable if the experience was traumatizing, but even a general sense would help," she says gently. "What about their bodies? How tall and their build? Or perhaps their voices - if you heard them again, would you recognize them? If you were at the Peace Gala, you heard Cramer's - did you recognize, by any chance?"
Talyara 's lips thin as Uma mentions the Peace Gala, the witch breathing out a heavy sigh and giving the smallest shake of her head. "I wasn't there." Lifting her fingers to her head, she presses them against her temple, squeezing her eyes shut as she wills herself to muddle threw the events of the past two weeks. "I...maybe?" Talyara says with a frown, opening her eyes once more and turning to look at the mayor. "As I said the man who took me was really the only one who spoke. When I was ambushed outside of my cottage, there were mages there, binding my magic while the head witch hunter tried to hit me in the head to knock me unconscious but I dodged it." Talyara falls quiet for a moment as her memories catch up to her mouth. "Eventually he landed a blow and when I woke up I was in a cell. He came soon after wanting to talk about the witches--who we were, when we were meeting again, who was leading us. When I refused to talk..." the witch trails off, her eyes drifting to her bandaged arm.
Uma groans, squeezing her eyes shut as Talyara reveals she won't be able to voice ID Cramer either. The expression is short lived. "Damn," she clicks the word out of her mouth, saying nothing further as she focuses on Talyara's halting recollection of her abduction. At the conclusion of the other woman's tale, Uma shakes her head in frustration once more. "The involvement of mages could explain why you don't remember very much," the words practically sag between them. "They're so organized," she comments with disgust, thinking immediately of Larket but keeping her suspicions to herself. It wouldn't be right for the Mayor to point the finger without evidence. "Why do they care what we do?" she asks aloud. "Let me ask you something," her voice drops to a conspiratorial volume, "because ... well obviously only we can talk about this: do you think they were trying to ask about Valrae? Like they were trying to figure out whether she's really dead?"
Talyara worries her bottom lip despite the two stitches there and keeps her eyes downcast as she mutters a quiet "sorry" in response to her inability to identify Cramer's voice or her captors' appearances. Guilt bubbled in her gut but she tries to temper it lest Uma suss out her internal thoughts and feelings. "They think we are vile and evil. There was a moment, when I first woke up in the cell, that I think the witch hunter actually felt remorse for what he'd done to me. There was something in his eyes...I could just tell. But then he went away for a couple of hours and when he returned there was only blinding hatred in his gaze. I think they were watching me for a while. My home isn't cloaked but it's not out in the open. I have it warded and it's like they knew they needed to ferret me out." Taly sighs heavily and rakes her hand over her face. "I believe they wanted to know about Valrae, yes. That's my instinct anyway. When I refused to speak, even after he branded me, I was thrown back in my cell and told they hoped Lana would help loosen my tongue. I believe they planned on torturing her in front of me in order to force me to talk."
Uma is shaken to hear Talyara talk about how the security of her home hadn't stopped her abductors. She thinks about her security at the mayoral house, and the dream she'd had ... and her son Marco missing from his bed. It could happen to any of them. Again, her mind wanders to Larket, and stays there, when Talyara confirms, via chilling retelling, that she too thinks knowledge about Valrae was what they were after. Uma's expression has grown drawn and grave. "I am so sorry this happened to the both of you," she holds Talyara's gaze. "I told myself that we had to turn the other cheek to the hate spewed by these idiots ... but I'm done doing that. When you're well, we should meet again, and ..." the words briefly dry up when she realizes she is suggesting a conspiracy of sorts. It wouldn't be the first one. She exhales jaggedly. "I don't know if I care about fighting fair, they're not. I want answers."
Talyara lifts her left hand to politely wave off Uma's apology. It was appreciated but unnecessary, it's not like she facilitated her abduction and subsequent torture. At the unspoken words of a possible plot against the witch hunters, Talyara's face hardens. Surprisingly, she begins to unravel the gauze dressing around her forearm. Once the bandage falls away on the blanket, Taly shows the wound to Uma--freshly stitched yet still bleeding letters that spell out W I T C H. "They branded me," she says in a quiet voice. "With an enchanted blade so it's not clotting and the doctors suspect I'll always have the scar. They stole me from my home. They broke my ribs and my face and nearly my skull. They kidnapped my sister and caged her like an animal. They severed her achilles tendon and she'll never walk the same again." Talyara's gaze locks with Uma's and uncharacteristic anger flashes there. The normally sweet and compassionate witch hears her own hollow words fall from her lips as if someone else speaks them. "I don't much care about playing fair anymore."
It's far too late to worry about getting her hands dirty, Uma tells herself, far far too late. She leans close and watches Talyara peel away the dressing on her forearm, revealing the carving that spells out what they are. Uma's expression hardens, Talyara's explanation driving the point home. Uma sees her own determination - and rage - reflected in the other woman. She nods grimly. "Screw them," whispers Uma. She holds Talyara's gaze a little bit longer, and then sits up, standing at the sound of approaching footsteps. It's one of the healers. Their conspiring is at an end. "Excuse me," the woman says, and then gasps at the state of Talyara's dressing. She looks at Uma, whose expression remains grim though has softened to hide the nature of their discussions. "Thank you for letting me speak to her," says Uma to the healer, exchanging a veiled look to Talyara after that. "We'll be in touch. Get well as soon as you can."
Talyara holds Uma's gaze, the fierceness and determination of both women reflected in their eyes. Only when the footsteps are heard and the mayor straightens to a stand does Taly blink rapidly, her expression turning sheepish as Iris, her healer, returns to see the state of her dressing. They had been kind and understanding to the little witch so she gives her a small apologetic shrug but offers no explanation. The healer tuts and bustles forward to rewrap her arm as Talyara finds Uma's eyes once more. "I'll see you soon," she says with a nod. "Thank you for coming to check up on me. And be..." the witch cuts herself off from saying safe. "Well."