Posted by Jasper
As the final embers went out at the Midnight Salute, Xan stood on the sidelines watching… well, everything. He watched the crowds of people gawking at the spectacle. He watched the men and women who actually came to help out of a rare sense of goodwill. He watched anyone and everyone acting the slightest bit suspicious. He watched Liberty and Mom, hovering over Constance’s body in shock. Drake had disappeared. Xan could only imagine that he was off to drink himself to death…or kill someone else.
Xan hated times like this… Times of tragedy. These times made it very clear that Xan was an outsider. Sure, everyone knew Xan and almost all liked him. Xan was great at making a good first impression. But those were just acquaintances. Those who got close enough to really know him also saw the manipulator that he was. When it came to business, Xan was cold and calculating. These skills had been a great help in recent days with his new companions, but at this moment he was feeling the price. His friends were hurting right now, Drake and Liberty especially. He wanted to be there for them as a shoulder to lean on… but they didn’t want that from him. That made him feel a sadness that he hadn’t felt since the night he lost his family.
He left the Vein at some point, just wandering the streets deep in thought. He relived the night of his family’s disappearance in his mind, and he found himself missing them more than he had in a long time. He missed Liza especially. It made sense that the loss of Liberty’s sister would make him miss his own sister. She was growing so fast, and for a moment he smiled as he thought of the woman she might be becoming. And then he actually laughed a bit as he realized that the reason he took to Liberty so quickly was because she reminded him of Liza more than a little. He kept his family so far in the back of his mind normally that it had never occurred to him.
His wanderings finally led him home, where he fell into bed straight away. His mind kept racing until he passed out.
* * *
The next morning, Xan was back to his normal calculating self. He pecked at his breakfast as he formulated his next move. Things had gotten serious. He was reminded of the conversation he had with Allustan recently about playing the game or being a pawn in it. The image of Constance Grace’s charred corpse was a powerful reminder at what happens to pawns in the game. Xan and his companions were also pawns right now, and it was time to start playing defense.
Constance’s funeral was early that morning. Once again Xan felt isolated. He noticed that Drake wasn’t there and that concerned him. He spoke with Liberty, Sam, and Mom briefly and agreed to leave for the Free City with Sam later that morning in order to sell the valuables they took from the cultist hideout. But first Xan and Sam made two stops.
First was to Drake’s to make sure he was still breathing. Getting to the front door, Xan could hear loud crashing noises from inside.
“Good. Drake’s up an around at least. This is how he handles grief when he’s not passed out drunk.”
Xan and Sam left Drake to his mourning, knowing that he probably wouldn’t answer the door anyhow.
The second stop was to the Dourstone residence. The conversation was brief, but the mine manager did offer up the reward that had been discussed. Two hundred and fifty gold. Xan then offered him twice that amount for any knowledge about who killed Constance, but Dourstone had no information to offer. They left for the Free City straight from the dwarf’s residence.
* * *
The trip to the Free City and back was good for Xan. It gave him time to think. He also was glad he could get away from everything for a bit. Sam was great company too. Her lighthearted nature was a breath of fresh air compared to the sadness and seriousness of what they had left behind in Diamond Lake. Xan found himself enjoying the road more than he expected.
By the time they returned home, Xan had made a decision. It was time to get away for awhile. He and his friends were too vulnerable right now… too out in the open. He was resolved to find an excuse for all of them to travel out of Diamond Lake, whether they liked it or not. Sam and Liberty had already talked about leaving, but Drake or Mom might need a little creative motivation.
In the end, Xan had come to realize that his methods may have put distance between himself and the people he cared about, but that didn’t mean that he couldn’t be there for them anyhow… in his own way.