Isabelle and Corthos Scene
“Just let him be. He’ll get over it. He’ll be fine.” Isabelle rolled her eyes, then looked over at Lena and back to Rexus as the man continued to speak. “He’s just in a mood. He gets this way if things aren’t easy for him for a while. He’s not harming anyone, and he’s focused. And we need him focused. Look at how much we’ve done in the last week with him actually giving his attention to the Ravens.” Lena spoke next, her tone softer than Rexus’. “I mean, he said it’s nothing. He just wanted to know if she had a good life. He knows that, and then he called me off. He’s fine. He’s been making jokes and laughing and being the same smarmy bastard he was beforehand.” Isabelle sighed deeply and crossed her arms as she replied. “I’m sure he’s just fine. He’s doing great. Sounds awesome. Maybe I’m just being a bit paranoid, being chased by the Dottari will do that to you.” She started to say something more, then bit her tongue – quite literally – to hold it back. She just shook her head silently as Rexus spoke again. “We can’t all focus on Corthos’ problems. There are much larger goals at stake than whatever happened between him and….” He sighed, trying to be polite. “….some dilettante who just moved on to whatever whim caught her fancy. And he’s smart enough to know that. And he needs to just move on. And he will. Trust me, I’ve been around this before. I know him quite well. But we can’t lose sight of the focus….” Rexus continued, and Isabelle yawned audibly and excused herself.
Walking through the tavern, she grabbed a tankard of ale and two glasses from the barkeep and headed for the back rooms. She didn’t so much knock as she nudged through Corthos’ door, the man himself sitting with his back to her at his writing desk. Of course he was writing something. She rolled her eyes as she shut the door. His hand moved to the side, attempting to shoo her away. “Not now, Lena. Reading. Thinking.” Isabelle set the glasses down on the small table, pouring the dark ale into each before speaking. “Not Lena. You and me, buddy….we gotta talk.” Corthos turned his head to look at her, his gaze narrowing. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days, his eyes reddened and tone harsh. “There’s nothing to talk about, Isabelle. Everything is going well. I’ve got no other jobs for you yet.” Isabelle grinned slightly, taking a seat and raising her glass. “Drink up. This ones on me.” Corthos sighed loudly before stepping to the table to grab his glass and taking a deep swig. Isabelle spoke bluntly. “You look like shit.” Corthos laughed in spite of himself. “Trying to keep everything going. It’s weird how little I feel a need to write when everyone knows my name. Just trying to keep my celebrity status.” Isabelle grunted an acknowledgment as she drank again.
“So, everyone is talking about some girl that you sent Lena to give a letter to after your duel. They aren’t saying much, but I’m curious. I thought Rexus was the sappy poet?” Corthos looked taken by surprise for only a brief second. “Just a friend. Nothing more. I’m unattached, I’m free as can be now. It’s really quite liberating. No expectations. Why, were you feeling jealousy?” Isabelle grinned halfheartedly. “Well, that’s good to – you know what, no. I’m not gonna play this stupid game.” She finished her glass and pounded it on the table. “You think I don’t see what you’re doing? Maybe everyone else is thinking you’re gonna wake up and move on, but they don’t see what I see.” Corthos cocked his head to the side. “I have no idea what you-” Isabelle cut him off. “You gave up. I don’t really know why, but you just gave up and laid down like a sick dog, waiting for someone to kill you because you don’t even have the balls to do it yourself anymore. And you keep on laughing and smiling and joking like some fool because you act like it doesn’t affect you. Pathetic.” A fire rose in Corthos’ eyes, and he gripped the table as he spoke back, his tone terse and raised. “How am I supposed to act, Isabelle? My sister slams me in her writing and publicly disowns me, calling me a joke and a shame. The girl that I love tells me that she never wants to speak to me after I paid off her debts. A man that I love like a brother sees me as a burden that has to be restrained. So how in the hell am I supposed to be? I cannot be everywhere at once, acting in a perfect role for everyone. They want me out of their lives? Fine, so be it. That’s less to distract me. Rexus wants me focused, well, I am absolutely goddamned focused!” His knuckles were white where he gripped the table.
Isabelle refused to back down. “You knew full well that your sister would have to distance herself, don’t you dare bullshit me that you didn’t expect it. And as far as the girl….you care? You honestly care about her?” Corthos nodded, eyes never leaving Isabelle. “Then act like it. Or you can sit on the side while the whole damn world moves on, because it will not give a single second to stop for you. I thought you were someone worth respecting, but now you’re just acting like a coward. You’re better than that. Where’s the spine? What happened to the guy that was willing to raise hell for what he believed in? Instead, now you just sit there and wait.” Isabelle slapped Corthos across the mouth, emotion starting to pour out from her. “You just sit there and act like you don’t give a damn because you’ve given up. And at least this way you can pretend like your death means something because you get to die like a martyr. Well, I’ve got news for you, bud. The box that a martyr gets and the box that anyone else gets are the same damn size. You don’t get to take the easy way. Not today, not while I’m here, not while you’re in this.”
Corthos rubbed at his jaw, speaking angrily. “You have no idea what you are talking about. Isabelle, you should go, now, before this gets worse. I don’t know where you got this idea that I’ve given up, and you have no business in discussing my personal life….” Isabelle shook her head and spoke again. “Not getting off that easy. I have no idea? I don’t? Let me tell you something. I saw it in the way that you offered to sit and wait for the Dottari. I saw it in the way you dove into the Tiefling murders without stopping to think. I saw it in the way you ran yourself from point to point, the way that you faced down the Dottari with barely a plan. You’re some supposed military mind, yet you keep throwing yourself into the jaws of the enemy over and over. You don’t get to die like that.” A few heated tears rolled down the side of Isabelle’s face as she continued, almost yelling. “You don’t get to be the one that decides to just give up. Because why the hell should you get a chance to decide when you’re done? I’ve seen this before, Corthos. You want to be a martyr? You want to prove that you deserve that? “ She was almost quivering with rage. “What you’re doing right now is just a cowards way out. I watched it happen once already, goddamit! And they may not see it, but I have.” She took a deep breath, raising a finger when Corthos started to speak.
“A guy on my crew by the name of Kestrel. A good guy. Ran with me for a long time. But eventually, things started going wrong. His family fell apart. His wife ran off with some captain, and his kid died from the plague. But Kestrel….he was always upbeat. Always had a joke or a good spirit, and while he was hurt, he just kept going. Except that he didn’t….he just gave up mentally. He started volunteering for foolhardy stuff. Missions that paid big, but were dangerous as all hell. I thought he just wanted the big money and wanted to get out of the game, but he kept going and going. Until we were on a little run together, breaking into a Dottari slaver caravan. Things went bad, and they surrounded us. I threw down a smoke and tried to pull on his sleeve, but instead felt the tip of a Dottari blade poking out of his back. And you know what the last words he said to me were?” She wiped her eyes angrily. “He said ‘Finally.’ He’d been waiting this whole time. Hadn’t even drawn his balde. That son of a bitch had just been waiting for someone to kill him.” She took a large swig from the tankard. “I looked through his bag that night, and it was just pages of him talking about how he didn’t care. How he’d given up months before. He thought that if he died doing something, at least he’d be a legend.” She sniffled slightly. “Well, he’s not. He’s dead, and he’s a bastard. Because he got off way too easy. He died – that’s the easiest part. It’s the rest of us, the ones living through this – we need the help.”
Corthos found himself without words for once, and he just poured another drink for Isabelle and for himself. She continued. “You want to die, that’s fine. We all do sometimes. You want to just give up, so do I sometimes. So does Lena. Rexus, Maxwell, Laria….all of us get scared, Corthos. But we can’t just lay down and die. Being a martyr doesn’t change a goddamn thing. You want this girl, go and get her. You want to take this city, we can take it. You want your sister’s love, earn it. But don’t just lay down and die. I can’t respect that. And what about the others? Rexus needs you to be the one to take action. Lena looks up to you for guidance. Maxwell watches what you do. So are you really that selfish?” She finished her drink, heading for the door. Corthos put his hand on her shoulder before she could reach the handle. “You’re right. Every last bit of it. Every last word.” She managed a harsh, barking laugh. “I know I am. That’s the worst part.” And with that, she left the room. Corthos sat and emptied out the tankard, staring at the wall.