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Part Seven

Of Punishment and Poisons

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It was several days later that I found out what else had happened. I was sitting out in the garden, after having argued with everyone about getting up. They finally agreed, conditionally. I was allowed to sit in the garden, weather permitting. For a while. I took what I could get, being heartily bored with staring at four walls.

Karien and Arikian arrived together. They and my father were my only visitors. It didn't strike me as odd until that day.

"Well met!" I greeted them. "And what news of the outside world do you have to relieve my boredom today," I asked.

They glanced at each other. Rather guiltily, I thought.

"Well?" I demanded.

"Lad, we have to talk." Arikian sounded even more serious than he had on my last day at class. Even Karien, for once, looked serious.

I braced myself with a deep breath. "Okay."

"Surier, Brainard's been expelled from the Temple. Do ye remember who else was in the school when the explosion went off?"

I thought for a second. "Oh, Great and Merciful Oghma!" The others, cleaning out the rain gutters! My eyes widened in shock.

Arikian nodded. "And the Master with them."

"Dead?" I asked, feeling a terrible guilt creep over me.

Arikian nodded again. "Eight dead, four maimed, but they can still work, and one who never will again."

I bowed my head in grief. This was all my fault. I should have spoken up.

Karien grabbed my shoulders and shook me. "It's not your fault, you know. And I'll blacken your other eye if you continue to think so, old man," he said fiercely.

Arikian grinned slightly. "Well it does explain how he came t' have so many bruises and cuts. I didn't think he'd gotten them fallin' down drunk. Ye didna tell me that part, Karien."

Karien flushed. The Temple took a dim view of fights between students, except on the practice field.

Arikian chuckled. "At least ye got it out o' yer system, lads." He sobered. "Ye'll not like what ye hear next, lad, most like," he warned, studying me intently.

I shrugged. "Coming from you, Master Arikian, I've come to expect that." I smiled a bit, to take the sting out of my words.

He grimaced. "An inquiry was held today. That's why we were late getting here. Brainard's been given the boot. Only, he's escaped into the tunnels. He also claims he'll get revenge on those who betrayed him. Surier, I think he includes you and your father in that group."

I shrugged again. I didn't believe that he would ever really hurt my father or I. We'd been too close, but somehow Brainard and his work no longer fascinated me. If he was gone, all well and good. If not... If not I'd deal with it when the time came. "What else?"

Karien started chuckling, earning a glare from Arikian. "My apologies, Master Arikian. You asked me to tutor Surier in politics. I'm only now finding out how thick he really is!"

I glared at him. He was too far away for me to take a swing at him, so it was the best I could do.

Karien chortled as Master Arikian continued. "Has nothin' about yer illness struck ye as odd?" he asked, finally.

I shook my head. "There's nothing unusual about it. That isn't explained by poppy juice," I added dryly.

Arikian looked startled, and Karien fell off his seat, laughing. We ignored him.

"Ye knows, lad?" he asked.

"From about the second day when they stopped putting it in the water, yes. The cleric brought me a fresh pitcher of water and a glass, but I still had a full glass of water from the night before. I absentmindedly poured a glass from the new pitcher. It tasted strange to me. It was only after I'd sampled the first glass again that I could taste the poppy juice. My only question is why?"

Arikian sighed. "I figured ye'd twig to it," he muttered. "As to why? That's harder to explain."

"So I really didn't have alcohol poisoning, did I?"

"Oh, aye, that ye did, lad, but not to the extent that everyone else thought, that's fer sure. The innkeeper is a friend of mine. When he found the two of you out cold, he sent his lad 'round fer me. I'd done all I could at the school. We'd located all the bodies by that time, and Brainard was in the infirmary, so I headed back to me rooms. The lad met me at the door, and I came and got you two." He chuckled. "That was an adventure in itself, trying to lug you great hulking brutes back here without being seen."

I could imagine his difficulties. Being a dwarf, he didn't come up much past belt buckle height, and I had to be pretty close to twice his weight. I smothered a grin.

"Laugh while ye may, lad," he grinned. "I'll have me own back before you leave."

"I have no doubt of that, Master," Karien snickered.

"You still haven't answered my question, 'though, Master," I observed. "Why?"

"Surier, when we brought ye in, ye were goin' on about someone bein' 'not fit to live'. It was a bit before I realized it, but ye were talkin' about yerself. After we got the poison out of your system, I gave ye a dose of poppy juice. Ye didn't need t'have t'Headmaster or t'High Priest onta ye about that. I figured the juice should keep you quiet."

"Once Karien told me the whole story, I advised the infirmary Master that ye'd best be kept sedated fer yer own sanity. I.. I'm afraid I implied that ye'd been unhinged by the sight of yer Master half dead an' t'school in ruins." He waited for my reaction.

I stared at my feet and bit my lip in thought. Either way, I could be branded not fit, not mentally stable enough, to continue as a cleric of Oghma. That I wanted to die that night didn't surprise me. Question was, did I still feel that way? Sitting around, even in such beauty as the Temple gardens, gave one plenty of time to think. I'd figured out the answers to a lot of questions.

"So, do I at least graduate this year?" I finally asked.

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