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Foggy Eve
1996 by Matthew J. Drollinger
http://members.xoom.com/MidiMatt/midi/momp.htm

6. Nova

A thin old man with a gray beard and matching eyes answered the door at Nova's house. "Hello, my friend!" he said. "Stay awhile and listen!"

A thin old man with a gray beard and matching eyes answered the door at Nova's house. "Hello, my friend!" he said. "Stay awhile and listen!"

Nothing could have interested Valeria less. She thrust the note Gillian had written into his bony hands. He unfolded the piece of paper and read the message.

"Nova!" he called into the house. "Someone here to see you!" Then he said to Valeria, "She'll be here momentarily. I am Cain, the Elder."

"And I am tired of you already," Valeria wanted to say.

Cain glanced at the note. "It says here that you've lost your voice after a fall in the river. Perhaps Pepin could..."

"If you're quite finished reading my mail."

Cain shrugged and handed the note to his daughter. Nova was a few years older than Valeria. Although her face was rounder while Cain's was more angular, she had his steely gray eyes. A light sprinkling of freckles danced across the bridge of her nose and she wore her long brown hair in a loose braid thrown over one shoulder.

"Oh, why today of all days?" complained Nova after she'd read the message. "I was hoping to do some shopping. Maybe buy some spell books or even a staff. I guess I'll be working late at Ogden's instead."

"I'm sure it is for the best," volunteered Cain, turning to go back into the house. "Remember: men are wizards, women are witches. Unsupervised dabbling in sorcery is no pastime for a young lady."

Valeria could actually hear Nova's teeth grinding. "Yes," said Nova through a clenched jaw. She waited until her father was out of earshot. "A bar full of strangers is a much, much better place for a young lady to spend her time." She exhaled loudly, turned to go, and almost crashed into Valeria who had been standing silently, of course, in the doorway.

"Sorry," Nova apologized. "You must be Val."

Valeria nodded.

"Gilly's note says that you fell off a barge and lost your voice, and now you're stuck waiting for your clothes to be cleaned and your bow to be repaired."

"Remember: men are wizards, women are witches. Unsupervised dabbling in sorcery is no pastime for a young lady."

Valeria craned her neck to see the note. Gillian must have been a very fast writer. Nova showed her the note. It was no less than a full page of tidy, compact handwriting that covered everything from details about Gillian's grandmother's attack to information about Valeria to a long pleading promise from Gillian to Nova that she'd somehow make this unexpected imposition up to her as soon as she could.

"Anyway, I'm Nova. Why don't you come with me to the Tavern of the Rising Sun. We'll be able to check and see if Hildy's done with your bow yet."

Having nowhere else to go, Valeria went with her. Besides, she found that she sympathized with Nova's annoyance with her father and was willing to listen to her rant for awhile.

"What really steams me is that he's even said that he would've taught me sorcery if I'd been a boy!" fumed Nova. "Right now he's holding out for the hope that I'll take a husband and produce a grandson for him to train. Bloody Horadrim! Don't you think they're a little old to be afraid of girls?"

Valeria gave a raspy chuckle.

"If he's in such a desperate hurry for a grandson, maybe I ought to skip getting married and just have one! After all, that's what people do when Caravan's in town," grumbled Nova. "That'd show him."

Nova sighed and gave Valeria an apologetic look. "Here I am, venting family grievances at a total stranger. You must think I'm a crazy woman."

Valeria smiled and shook her head.

"Then you've got the patience and generosity of Zakarum himself."

Valeria gave another raspy laugh. She couldn't recall anyone ever describing her as patient and generous before. There didn't seem to be any point in trying to explain that her current state of politeness stemmed entirely from her inability to talk.

The square was packed with people. The workers were putting the finishing touches on the stage as the crowd waited for King Leoric to come and declare Caravan officially open. Nova and Valeria made their way to Griswold's smithy. Hildy was around the side with Valeria's bow. As they approached, the young weaponsmith let loose an arrow at a target mounted on a bale of hay. The arrow found the bullseye with a soft thunk.

"Ah, there you are," called Hildy. "Perfect timing."

Valeria eyed her bow appreciatively. Even from where she stood, it was apparent that the girl had done good work. She wrote a quick note for Hildy: "What do I owe you?" Valeria had salvaged a few coins from her pockets, but probably nowhere near enough to pay Hildy for her efforts. She would probably have to go back to the barge and retrieve the rest of her money, along with her own clothes and other belongings.

Hildy read the note and grinned broadly. "Nothing," she answered. "As long as you promise to tell everyone that Hildy Griswold did the repairs."

That was more than a bargain. Of course, Valeria wasn't able to tell anyone anything at the moment. She held up her hands.

Hildy laughed. "Don't worry about it. You can hold up your end of the deal when you get your voice back. Do you need some arrows?"

All of Valeria's arrows were floating down the River Talsande and were probably halfway to Seagate by now. She nodded.

Hildy handed Valeria her bow and bundle of wooden target arrows. Valeria tucked them under her arm and wrote her second "Thank you" of the day.

"Whoa! What have we here?" Valeria turned to see a middle-aged man approaching. Angus Griswold was obviously Hildy and Hogan's father. They had his stout build and thick, curly red hair.

"Papa!" greeted Hildy. "I just did some work on a short bow."

"May I?" he asked Valeria, pointing at her bow.

Valeria shrugged and handed it over.

Griswold inspected his daughter's work critically. "Aye," he muttered. "A fine job. Y'can use a wee bit less wax an' still achieve the same result, but excellent work. Ye've done yer Papa proud." He handed the bow back to Valeria.

Hildy glowed with pride.

Originally published to alt.games.diablo August 18, 1999.

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