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“I think ye’ve missed the point here a bit, lassie,” said Shannon.
“I want my husband back,” Khyrisse said, louder this time.
“Yes, yes, I heard ye. Mind you dinna wind up the archetype of henpeckin’.” She rolled her eyes expressively and tucked a piece of bright red hair back behind one ear. “Not that yer entirely wrong t’be worryin’. He wouldna be the first man to find his eyes strayin’ a bit here.”
“In your dreams, Shannon,” Khyrisse snapped.
“Mine?” She laughed. “Well, layin’ aside fer a moment the fact that I’m only Shannon to the extent yer perceivin’ me t’be, I wasna exactly referrin’ to meself, lass. At ease; I’m not half the slut you fancy me, and yon blackie’s not me type. I do have better things to do than follow ye ‘round collectin’ every man ye’ve ever fucked, y’know. Though I wouldna push that Maxwell Silverhammer out o’ bed, t’be sure--”
“Look,” Khyrisse interrupted with a forceful hand movement, “Shannon, Concierge, whoever you are... I am really not here to discuss my sexual history with you. Give me my husband back and I’ll be barging right back out of here again, thank you very much.”
“There ye go again.” Shannon sighed. “We’re not a prison, lass, we’re a crossroads. A waystop, if ye will, in a legendary life. Mortals pass through here on their way to becomin’ part o’ the mythscape of Ataniel, in their own small way; and now ye come draggin’ in half the circus but the elephant? Your lot’s not up for this, Starshadow. Well, exceptin’ my Alain, that is.” Her head tilted down a bit, some strange and very private smile. “But he’ll not be needin’ this place t’get where he’s goin’, lassie, and the rest o’ ye dinna deserve bein’ here in the first place.”
“And Shannon does?” said Khyrisse, nettled despite herself.
“Ask yer ex.” Shannon smirked. “Or yer Sunfighter. Ask any man, for that matter. The world’ll not be forgettin’ Shannon Cormyr any time soon. Dinna let it bother you too much now.”
“Bother me, please,” snapped Khyrisse. “You can keep Eric. ...Oh, wait. You couldn’t.”
“I left him,” said Shannon, unfazed. “Fine point t’grasp, I know. Not that it’s relevant. For I’m more than Shannon, as I’ve said; and so I know it’s me immortality in a man’s heart ye’re jealous of, not the affections of our dear connivin’ Tremontagne. Yer the one summonin’ this cattiness from me, lass, but you are ultimately forgettable.”
Khyrisse folded her arms tightly, too shaken to think of a ready retort and too intelligent to start an actual firefight with the Sidhe over name-calling. “Look,” she said, trying without much success to keep her voice steady, “you said you were here to help us?”
“Indeed.” She fluttered her fingers together. “Yer in a bit over yer head, as I’ve been tryin’ to say. Some o’ ye might have ended up here in a few years anyway an’ it’s just a matter of forcin’ yer own hands a bit. Others... well, the Mystery alone knows what we’re goin’ to do with Vastarin Windborne. Could ye ha’ brought anyone more shallow along if ye tried?” Shannon shook her fiery head. “Ye’ll be needin’ all the warnin’ ye can get, so listen up. First an’ foremost: if ye take one thing in your sorry lives seriously, make it this one. We are beyond the control of men or gods. What happens here is final. Dinna go trippin’ down roads yer not prepared to live with thinkin’ it’s just some pointless test. The choices here are true choices, whether ye understand them or not. The consequences are real.”
Khyrisse closed her eyes and nodded.
“Second. The Hotel is by its nature intended for the individual. Ye bent the rules a bit bringin’ in thirteen o’ ye at the same time, an’ now yer all goin’ to have to depart at the same time too. Leave someone behind an’ he’ll be here till the Red King rises. Suffice it to say you won’t see him again.”
Khyrisse paled a bit, but nodded again. “Does... that include Ebreth and Jack?”
“Jack?” Shannon looked confused for a fraction of a second. “Oh, ye must be meanin’ Jackson Cage. Nay, each o’ them came in on his own, as a body should. But the rest o’ ye entered through the same door, and it’ll only be openin’ once more. Mind you dinna forget anyone... and mind no one forgets you.”
Now I’m doubly glad Vickie’s not here. “Thank you,” Khyrisse said. “Any more warnings?”
“Just one,” said Shannon. “Those hip-skimming tunics o’ yers... give ‘em a rest for a few months. Ye’ve not lost all the baby fat yet, and yer hips dinna need the extra attention.”
Then Khyrisse was standing in a long hallway, a bullseye lantern in her left hand. The ceiling had a checker pattern. “Hello?”
She looked around. There was no one there.
“Merde,” muttered Khyrisse, and unshuttered the lantern with slightly shaking hands. It made a soft golden glow. “You couldn’t have incarnated as Wyvern or somebody?”
The Concierge did not answer, and tugging her tunic self-consciously down over her rear, the sorceress set off down the checkered hall.
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