Two men talked with each other over drinks.

"You 'ere what 'appened to Suthwick?" Asked the balding one.

His compatriot, a stout man with the hands of a metal worker raised an eye brow.

"No, I haven't, but I'm sure you're gonna tell me."
The other man started to gesticulate as he spoke.

"Right you are! Soz the rumour from the local traders if that them Esarans are marching again."

The stout man leaned in.

"No... you don't mean THOSE Esarans, right Bart?"

"Yea, I'm serious, Stefan."
The color drained out of Stefan.

"It's bad enough getting caught in the dispute of nobles, but these bastards burn good folk. Healers, wise women, doctors..."

The bar boy stopped listening after refilling the pair's ale. He shook his head, messing up his shaggy brown hair.
It was going to be a few more hours until the tavern was closed. He sighed, he had only come here within the past few years and was only able to recently put down roots. A room above the tavern that he could call his own and a few folks he'd call friends.
With the Esarans likely on the way he'd have to leave again.

"Damned cultists."

He stepped out from behind the bar and out onto the tavern floor. The people of the village of Vordhal filled the room.
Taelan, the butcher would have a sweet honey mead. Brianna and Devlin wanted some cider. Piter was having his usual ale. He kept the order in his head until he noticed someone new in the tavern.
They sat in the center of the room at an entirely empty table. No, it wasn't empty, they were there, weren't they. The cloaked figure seemed to flicker, but eventually remained solid. He sighed, they were still a customer and magic or otherwise their coin was still good.
He paced over and looked down at the cloaked figure.


They looked up at him. Their face was non-descript, probably a glamour.

"So you can see me, sit."

Their voice sat between genders. He felt compelled to join them, likely some charm or other trick.
The compulsion was strong and even knowing it was there he found himself sitting with the mysterious customer. He tapped the old bar table with his fingers and stared at the person across from him. Within the hood their face seemed to shift and change-
-sometimes they would resemble a woman he knew years ago and other times the various faces of the villagers. Magic; illusion or alteration most likely. He sighed.

"Well, are you going to order or not? I've got a whole bar full of people to serve and you're holding me up."
Their shifting face smirked. They waved a hand over the clasp of their cloak, removing an illusion and revealing an icon of a tower made of many other, smaller towers. The Spire, he knew it well.

"You people finally decide to do something about the Esarans committing genocide?"
He could tell he struck a nerve as the air grew heavy and static arced between him and his clothes.

"Yes, we have and we have been for years."

His temper flared.

"Then why didn't you do anything about Suthwick? Where were you when they burned my mother and sister!?"
The figure remained stony faced.

"They came with their guns belching golden flames and war clerics wielding burning wire that moved like snakes. They killed any who resisted and the others, the ones who surrendered, they tested us."

He clenched his fists.
He wanted to stand up and wring this agent of the Spire's neck, but he couldn't move more than his mouth and hands. It must've been the sudden surge of energy a moment ago. He spat at the figure. It hit a barely visible barrier and sizzled as it slid down.
"You would deny me even the smallest satisfaction, you piece of pig shit. I assume we're in a warded space too so no one can hear a whisper of this."

The figure nodded.

"Quit your babbling and listen to me, Rufus."

He blinked.

"Oh, do you have a different name now, little brother?"

"This can't be happening, I watched you burn..."

The figure sighed and pulled their hood back then dispelled their glamour. She looked enough like his sister, older and her eyes were harder.
She must have noticed the disbelief in his eyes because she unfastened her cloak and bared her neck to him. Around it was several rings of scars, places the Forge wire went into her flesh and wrapped around her throat. She stood up and made a slight gesture with one hand.
He found he found no longer move his hands. She walked over to him and untied the bandana he wore around his neck. He had similar scars. She ran her fingers over them.

"I'm so sorry, little brother. I'm going to give you back control, I hope you believe me."
"I saw you die!"

Tears welled up in his eyes. She was dead, this was just a cruel illusion the mage had conjured up to earn his trust.

"This, this is just a trick and a cruel one that. What the hells do you want, wizard?"

She looked down at the table.
"What can I do, Rufus? You're convinced I'm someone else and I'm here to do what exactly?"

He bit his lip. Even if this wasn't her they were still an agent of the Spire and they were here before the Esaran army. They could help, maybe.

"Help the people here."
"That is exactly what I intend to do, brother."

He knew that smile well, the way the left side of it curled up so that it almost looked like a smirk and the subtle parting of her lips. There was no way she could really be his sister, could really be Rene.
But the appearance, the voice, her mannerisms... they were hers. There was one thing he could ask her that would put an end to the question of her identity once and for all, something he'd kept secret for almost his entire life. He stared up at her green eyes.
His throat tightened. If she was who she said she was she had heard it before, why was he so tense. He tried to get the words out, but couldn't. He didn't want a still possible stranger to know.

"Do you remember when dad left and took Erich with him, remember what I did?"
A different question. It would still work, he thought. She ran a hand through her auburn hair.

"Yes, he and Erich went to Kasite. We were left behind, we weren't his kids, Rufus."

She paused. He knew she was right. He and his sister never knew their father.
"As for what you did? You didn't do anything. You became more quiet, more reserved. I remember mom saying you were the man of the house now. You didn't like that. You two fought."

Her face turned dour and the near smirk became a sad, gentle smile.
She turned away from him and looked around the room. His throat was tighter than ever. She did remember. This was Rene, his sister and confidant.

"Say, Rufus, why don't we continue this later? Your patrons are getting restless."
He was grateful for the change in topics. People across the bar did seem agitated.

"Hah, yea, I uh, guess I should."

He began to tie the bandanna around his neck. Rene extended a hand towards him.

"Do you mind if I wait in your room upstairs?"
"No, go ahead. I'll be up after my shift. It's really nice to see you again... Rene."

He fought back the urge to cry. This was actually happening, maybe something good will come of it. He just wished that it was under different circumstances.
He grabbed her hand, it was cooler than his own, but still warm to the touch. She and him locked fingers for a moment and squeezed. She used to do this for him when he was younger, it always helped him settle down.

"It's okay, I'm here now. I'm so sorry I took so long."
Rufus closed his eyes and he was back in their old home, before everything really went to shit. He was in Erich's room with Rene, slumped over the bed and Rene was sitting opposite him. He had been clutching a bunched up bit of blanket, sobbing into it.
Rene turned to look at him and gently snaked a hand over to his arm. she grabbed it and pulled it out from under his head. Rufus let her, he was in no state to put up a fight, especially one he really didn't want to make. She ran her hand down his forearm and grabbed his hand.
"It's my fault dad left, isn't it?"

She squeezed his hand.

"No, of course not. Why would you even think that?"

He squeezed back.

"I just never really measured up to Erich. That's why he took him and not you or I."
She slid off the bed and leaned over it as well, never letting his hand go.

"Hey, look up at me."

He lifted his head.

"You know the reason he took Erich is that he's his child by blood and you never had to measure up to Erich, you aren't him."
He closed his eyes, they hurt from crying. It wasn't about Erich to him, no it was something else. He forced his eyes open and looked at his sister. Her face was painted with her concern for him. She was so beautiful, unlike him.
"No, I'm not. I'm not like him at all. I don't want to be like him either. I don't..."

She cocked her head to one side.

"Yea, you don't need to be. Just be yourself, my sweet kid brother."

She smiled at him.

"Be myself, huh? Well I..."

He inhaled sharply.
The memory faded away as the din of the tavern returned.

"Be myself..." He muttered softly
Gonna unroll this one as well, I'm thinking about seriously writing these in a google doc and posting it segmented here. Ah hell, I'll figure it out. Love you all!
As per usual, comments and critiques are welcome and encouraged.
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