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Part Five

Of Admissions and the Abbot

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I didn't recognize my surroundings, at first. I was more accustomed to viewing ceilings from the end of a paintbrush, rather than lying there staring at them. I blinked, just to make sure. The candlelight was making strange patterns that mesmerized me.

I heard the rustle of fabric. Feeling like my head was a long way from my body, I turned to find the source of the sound. Karien wiggled again, trying to get comfortable in a chair.

Something registered, then. Karien didn't look well. His clothes looked like he'd slept in them, and there was a faint stubble on his face. I'd never seen him look so scruffy before.

And another thing, I mused, still feeling detached, where was I? Slowly, my eyes traveled around what I could see of the room. Stone walls, bare floors. Well, at least it wasn't the inn, I supposed. The Keep?

Reality came crashing back and woke me like a bucket of ice water. The explosion. Brainard! Had Karien told them what I knew? Was I now under guard?

I stared at Karien again, only to be surprised to see him watching me.

"How do you feel, old man?" he asked quietly. "Thirsty?"

I nodded, suddenly aware that I was.

He poured me a glass of clear liquid from a pitcher and helped me rise to a sitting position. I stared suspiciously at the glass.

He chuckled. "Sorry to disappoint you, old man, but it's only water."

He only let me have a few sips of it, not nearly enough to end the thirst. "Not so fast, old man," he cautioned. "Take it slow."

He leaned me back against the pillow and I watched him pull the chair closer. "Feeling like a chat?" he asked.

I grunted. "Not much choice with you around." My voice was hoarse.

He shrugged and grinned. "Well, you know how it is..."

"No, I don't," I said. "What happened? Where are we? The explosion. Is Brainard....?" I couldn't finish the rest of that question.

I had started to rise as my predicament closed in on me. Karien pushed me back onto the pillow. "Slow down, old man," he chuckled.

"I'm not supposed to tell you everything. There's others would like to talk to you first." He raised his hand, forestalling my interruption. "But I will tell you the important stuff."

"Oghma's Beard, why didn't you tell me you'd never drank before?" was his first question.

I stared blankly, not understanding.

Karien ran a hand through his hair. "God's teeth, man, you polished off six bottles of gutrot! I've had everyone, from your father to mine and back, on my case about that." He got up to pace the small room. "Even Arikian had something to say! Why the devil didn't you tell me?"

I was even more confused. "What's that got to do with it?" I finally asked.

He turned at stared at me. He sputtered for a second and then roared, "Because you've been damn close to death, you stupid, great hulking oaf! Have you never heard of alcohol poisoning?"

"Me?" My voice sounded strange, even to my ears. I think I squeaked on the word.

He looked at me and started to chuckle. He strode over to the bed and sat on the edge, tears of laughter streaming down his face. "You really didn't know, did you, old man?" he finally managed to get out. "God's teeth, no one will believe this! Surier - can't hold his drink!"

I couldn't help myself. I started to chuckle. I had seen others after their first drink. "I wasn't that bad, was I?"

"No," Karien hooted. "You were worse!" And that set us both to laughing.

"What your young friend is trying to tell you, is that you have spent the last three days, unconscious and near death, partly due to alcohol poisoning," a cold voice spoke from the doorway. "That and a combination of shock and a general rundown condition. Really, Karien, when you asked to stay with Surier, I had no idea that you were planning to bring the party to him." The High Priest strode in, followed by Arikian.

That stilled our merriment as nothing else could.

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