What friends are for

People had come and gone. Looking out of the window in my new home, I had seen many people. Some new and some old, many of whom I hadn't even taken the time to greet. It is funny how you think you are sure of a thing and then suddenly you realize you haven't been acting on it. I was sure I would lay low in this hamlet only long enough until I deemed the time right to slip out again and find a proper place to live. And now, I didn't know any more.

I knew what had changed. What had changed my resolve to leave as soon as possible. Or better, who. Only, I had no idea how it had actually happened. The guy didn't spark the slightest interest in me when I first saw him, other than perhaps the surety that he were someone that I could easily persuade to help fix me up with a place to stay. Which, of course, he did, but not in the way I had expected. Still, he had been cold to me when he showed me around the tower. Or had I been mistaken, and had he in reality been sizing me up in there?

Gathord. That visit at the bee-keepers wife had opened my eyes, and shown him as he could be. Warm, funny, pleasant to be with. Interested in me! Where he'd been the one who had to leave to give me my own place to live, now, I wanted him here with me. If I had been able to clear my head and think straight, I would have run after him when he left that evening. I would have wooed him and given him no other choice than to forget about his silly travelling plans and stay with me. But alas, I didn't. He went on this stupid trip to visit the dark lands of Stygia. Soon, he would be surrounded by exotic beauties and would forget all about me.

I stayed up at the tower most of the days, looking out into the distance. Perhaps hoping to see him return for me. I avoided Marve. She made me think of that last evening I got to spend with him. But at last, I couldn't shut her out any more. I had to tell someone, and she was still the closest to a friend that I had here. Of course we were interrupted when I did pick up the courage and walk up to her. Wilpur being his usual rattle-brained self. So I had to put off that chat with Marve until later, after we had that incident with the half-mad stygian rat named Ipoth. But all that came and went, and finally Marve suggested we talk. I said yes and walked out on that bunch without so-much as a goodbye.

Marve took me to the place she had been spending her nights. I felt ashamed I hadn't known about that. In fact, I thought she was still using the stables like so many have done in the beginning, including me. She took me up on the roof of her tower, which, I might add, was in a worse state of repair than mine by far. But she seemed to be comfortable there, and that was what mattered. She softened up on me and offered me to answer any question I had. I skirted the subject at first, pretending I were interested in the raid on some shack that I had just heard about, but pretty soon it became clear that that wasn't the thing we both needed to talk about.

She had seen how I had fallen for him that night. Not only that, she admitted she had known all about it in more ways than I would have given her credit for. She was vague at first, saying she had seen how sad I had been, how unhappy. And that she had wanted to help me. When she said that I thought she meant that she had been trying to arrange something with the bee-keepers wife for me. That hadn't been it, she said. She had drugged me. I still didn't understand what she was saying, probably because I didn't want to believe she had done such a thing to me. But she made it real easy for me and told me everything about the powder she had found in that shack and how she had recognized it as an aphrodisiac. How she had added it to the figs which she gave me and Gathord. I was stunned, I was so stunned that I slapped her and shouted some curse and left.

I ran to my tower, slipped into the silks and cried for hours. At first I cried because I felt betrayed by a friend. Then, it dawned on me that she had actually done it to please me, to make me happy. The realization of that, the knowledge that someone would go that far to please me was more than I could take, and I cried again. Then I realized that I still missed Gathord, and even though I knew I had been drugged into falling for him, I knew that there had to have been some trace of affection for that drug to grow upon and blossom. So what did I feel now? Did I hate Marve, or admire her for her act of compassion? Did I want Gathord to catch some bad disease at some Stygian whore, or did I want him to catch me and carry me to our tower? Too bewildered to know which was true, I fell asleep and drifted into oblivion.