A very rough first-draft kind of thing.
Sebru opened up the cottage windows to let the summer breeze in, and dropped the lunch packet of cheese and cold meat and sour bread and the counter. Her small house was cool and musty-smelling, unopened in the months she'd been gone with Faroque and Tafsa. Mouse droppings were in the corners and spiders had spun careful veils across her windows, and the white mage turned around and around, trying to settle back into the place that she'd called "home" once. It was strange and good to be out of the overcrowded, smelly city, teeming with refugees and rampant disease. Although her duty called her to help and heal the people she'd been desperate, at that end, to be free and on the frontier while yellow fever and lungrot unleashed by Nero and Tune swept the masses.
The door behind her creaked open and Sebru stiffened, swiped her long darkish hair behind her shoulders. The slender young man in the doorway reminded her of why she'd been sent out here in the first place, and it wasn't to recuperate.
Nero walked stiffly in, and swept his chilly gaze around the room."Please, Seb," Tafsa asked her. He looked tired and terribly drawn, face gone the color of tallow and black hair threaded with grey. Sebru sat across from him, watched anxiously, drew his hands into her own to warm them. "Please," he asked again. "We need to move Mero out of the city. It's a dangerous place for him to be right now, and normally you know we'd love to have him dead, but..."
Seb bit the inside of her cheek sharply.
"He's probably one of the best white mages that the world's ever seen, even if he's twisted. He developed these diseases. Maybe he can find out a cure for them."
"I don't want to take them," Sebru replied. "Tafsa, how can I possibly control him? As you said, he's brilliant. He's violent. Something's... not right with him. Even if it goes against the writ, I don't want to have anything to do with him at all."
"He's a member of your order, Sebru," the gray-faced advisor returned. "You can monitor what he's doing. Check his notes. Keep an eye on him. The woods around your house knows you and will listen - I trust it to keep him in, even if you don't. The woods will protect you too."
Sebru looked down. She chafed his hands, rolled them on his wrists, began a slow massage of the palm so that heat began to sleep into the cold flesh. "And you and Faroque and the regent?"
"Faroque and Ajander will be going out of the city too," Tafsa replied. "In the other direction. I'll stay here to relay Ajander's orders to the guard and the courts."
"I don't want to be separated," Sebru whispered hoarsely. Her throat was clotting up thick suddenly, and the words were hard to push out. "Tafsa. You'll be in terrible danger here. Tune hasn't been caught yet, and you'll be a prime target... and Ajander, out in the countryside...?"
"He'll be protected there," Tafsa told her. His fingers flexed against hers and Sebru released his hand. The advisor pulled it back and set it in his lap. "Honestly, it's not you and Mero I'm worried about. Tune doesn't know where you live. Mero isn't really an offensive fighter. I trust you'll be fine against him."
And so... and so, and so.
Here they were.
Sebru coughed lightly, and Mero turned to look at her. His eyes were the pale blue of glacier ice and Sebru didn't meet them.
"Lunch?" she asked.
She turned from the empty loft and ran towards the creek that crossed the field. Her breaths came in great tearing gasps, wrenched out of the inner folds of her lungs. Where was he, where where where where - it wasn't possible that he could leave the field - the trees kept the borders of her land secure - where was he, where was he -
Iron stank in the air around by the creek. Sebru paused, gaped in unmasked horror at the coppery rivulets that stained formerly-bright creek waters. She hitched up her skirts, thrashed through the reeds; they cut at her calves and she added her own blood to the mix. Once a long time ago, newly-made a white made, she's made herself known to the stream in the same way: with her blood. Judging by the amounts of red in the water someone had decided to become far to familiar with the creek spirit here.
Down by the lightning-struck oak Mero stood, neatly, holding a carcass of... something in the water that lapped around his waist. He was looking down at it was a rapt, utterly concentrated expression; as Sebru sloshed and screamed into the wide shallow pool he flicked one calculating glance at her. Sebru didn't notice. She thrashed up to him, waterlogged and clumsy, and tore the limp body out of his hands with a scream.
Nona. It was Nona, her sheepdog bitch; good, loyal, black-and-white Nona, getting on in her years, sliced across the belly so that her organs slid out in purplish pinkish coils and blood ran into the water. Sebru dragged herself to the bank, Mero turning slightly in the water to watch her progress; there she set Nona's cold wet body down into the mud and held the dogs face in her hands and screamed. Big, raw, wrenched-from-the-gut screams. Spots were bursting in front of her eyes.
After half an hour she stopped herself, weakly, her throat feeling coarse and bloody. Mero sloshed out onto the bank himself. He looked bedraggled, more than ever before, and very cold. Sebru held her dog's face in her hands and looked up and hated him, the slight feline curve to his lips, the inhuman blue eyes.
"Mero," she said. "You disgust me. You disgust
me beyond anything I've ever seen or met before - you're the greatest villian here. Even Tune
was decent enough to only kill humans
- not something that didn't even understand
She stopped because she had to, and coughed chokingly. Mero looked down at her and smiled a casual insult. "Only a villian for you, Mage," he said. "Only you."