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[personal profile] selenias
Title: Lockjaw
Fandom: Tales of Zestiria
Characters/pairing: Clemm/Alisha
Prompt: Sappho #10
Rating: all audiences
Word Count: 700

Clemm broke through the hall and Alisha thought the doors had come off their hinges. She rose from her seat at the dais, pen falling flat on the oak desk as she turned to look behind, heels distinguished against the cool stone as she straightened. The grate she’d forgotten about, and poor Clemm left a trail of water behind, mumbling apologies to the guards as her boots landed on the blue runner and she strode forward with tight shoulders.

Had Lady Maltran ever snapped the back of their hands before, it would have been now that they’d have felt the ruler smash down. Clemm had never looked so nervous before, not since news of Marlind’s recent plague had reached their ears and the death toll rose to double after the first two weeks. Soon, notices of the burned bodies had fluttered across Alisha’s desk. Clemm had helped pick senior troops to dispatch westward to aid with the burials.

What if someone here catches it? What if you catch it?

Ladylake is in notably better health. That won’t happen.

“My lady, the council’s made a request of you and asked me to bring you this.” Her hands pulled the cylindrical tube from her breast pocket, and her expression seemed less exuberant, more resigned that even these measures she hated so much were her duty, too. Alisha took it and refolded her friend’s fingers into a gentle fist. Bartlow had resorted to sponsoring her closest vassals as runners to irk her, a demonstration of power they thought would deter her. But Clemm’s face carried her resolve, and even provoked no one would break.

“The council’s sending me away again, southwest toward Gwen. Don’t worry, I’ve been expecting this. I am however surprised that they didn’t time it so I’d be absent during the festival.”

Clemm’s body tensed like a bowstring. She drew an arm around herself. “These requests are constantly getting riskier. Do they not consider your safety measures, too?”

“It’s alright. I trust everyone’s judgment, but I feel better heading these trips myself. We’ll leave tomorrow, mid-morning. Tell Kushel and her troop to have their things packed. I expect we’ll be gone for quite a while.” Alisha spun on her heel and capped the pen she’d dropped. The demands she’d drawn for future concerns she folded up and tucked into the empty carrier. Clemm followed her up the steps, and paused two rungs down. Her eyes looked dark and hooded where Alisha blocked the light.

“What of the council, in the interim? Isn’t there something Lady Maltran and I can do? They gossip incessantly.”

“Let them talk and simply observe. Whatever the people learn or hear they must ascertain for themselves without our interference. I will listen to what the council has to say. And it’s the people’s choice to believe who they like,” she said more gently, and Clemm’s hands straightened out from their stubborn fists.

“You’re right, but... I dislike this part very much.”

“I know, but it’s an ugly necessity. I will trust you and Lady Maltran to keep things in order in my absence the best you can. Patrols must stay regular, but everyone must take care of themselves when they can. If trouble brews, I can be found on the trail. I won’t stray if I can help it.”

Clemm closed her eyes and winced. “Lady Alisha, I’ll proudly carry out whatever task you entrust to me. But you must come back.”

“Of course.” Alisha hugged her briefly, then tucked the message in her breast pocket and stepped back, nodding tersely. Clemm smiled before the mask slipped into place, and she turned on her heel back into the sodden open corridor from whence she came.

Alisha shuffled out moments later, dragging her coat over her shoulders and watching the rain run across the courtyard, scattering and recollecting into a small collection of lakes and ponds. The poplars sounded like crackling paper, and out of sight, she could hear the evening call of the mess.

She splashed her way through the cold. Clemm was gone before she even had a chance to look, her adviser temporarily outside of her reach, and there was much to be done.
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