4.05 Corruption

Tamarack smiled all the way home with the weight of her new books in her pack. She decided to hit the Outlook for a little while, glad to put up with substandard fare and service for the chance to be left alone while she perused lovely drawings of pretty ladies, and then lovely drawings of pretty ladies with OTHER THINGS.

Thus she spent an enjoyable evening alone over a new book, accompanied only by a candle and a tall mug. When it was getting late she crept home, pausing at a local bookseller's to pick up two of the cheapest, most tattered volumes with which to replace the spines on her new books. No better place to hide something than in plain sight, she thought. Her secret pleasures would sit on a dusty shelf right next to the cookbooks she never used.

Kianna was already dressed in her night gown and rolling out her cot for the night when Tamarack entered, "Oh! good you're home, How did your extermination go?"

"Plenty more complicated than it shoulda' been… as everything seems to be," Tam sighed, dropping her pack with a 'thunk'. "You do okay here alone?"

"Sniglet's been keeping me company, and I made a few new friends." she replied, "Did you get me anything?"

Tamarack frowned. "Sorry, kit. Ain't too many gift shops in the sewers under Rittenratch. Don't think you would've appreciated much I coulda' grabbed for you down there."

"Sewers, I thought you were clearing fields…" replied her eyes still lingering on Tam's bulging pack.

"Like I said… things never go as expected," she reiterated. Noticing Kianna's attention on her pack, she did her best to divert it, diving straight into a riveting tale of her recent adventures, from three-armed giants to tentacled sewer-dwellers to heart-stopping trial scenes.

Kianna drank it all in, interrupting with frequent questions, but seeming to express little concern over the more perilous moments in the story.

"So we enjoyed a little Rittenratch hospitality, and that was that," Tamarack concluded. "You get the message I sent you?"

"Of course." she replied, "I was glad to hear from you"

"Well, I hope so…" Tam said uncertainly, furrowing her brow. "Didn't want you ta' worry. Thought you don't seem to be the worryin' type…."

"I never worry about you…" replied Kianna, fussing with her mattress, "You're the biggest baddest monster out there after all."

Tamarack broke out in a grin. "Aw, kitten… you sure do know how to flatter."

Kianna grinned back, "I'm glad you're home"

Tam waited until Kianna was fast asleep before slipping the two new books silently onto her shelf, grinning at how much they looked exactly like the rest. Then, she went about her own bedtime preparations with nary a care on her mind.

A few days later whilst Tamarack was off at the Gosling, Kianna, who had just come home from lessons with Varden, set about trying some of her new focusing techniques on some of the objects about the house. Soon three plates and a parade of cookbooks were performing choreographed moves across the kitchen table, Kianna trying hard to keep everything in consistent motion. After a third full production Kianna's brow furrowed at the sight of a squid like creature in one of Tamarack's cook books, suddenly curious about that sort of exotic cuisine lay therein Kianna beckoned the tome forward and after leafing through a few pages her jaw dropped and she put the book down dazed.

After a few moments of consideration Kianna cleaned up the clutter from her exercises and crept into the pantry with the book under her arm, greatly curious as to what other creatures the bizarre tome may portray.

Tamarack returned home later and found the house silent. She glanced around, wondering if Kianna had gone out somewhere. She was ready to put the matter aside until she happened to glance at her bookshelf and noticed a significant empty space. Her heart raced with sudden panic. "Kianna?!" she exclaimed.

There was a thud from the pantry.

Tamarack raced for the pantry door and tore it open. "What are you doing?!" she cried.

Kianna had just finished shoving the book under the cabinet, "Counting potatoes?" she replied.

Tam glared at her sternly. "Don't you lie to me, girl!"

Kianna turned bright red, "I was just reading… something." she replied

"Give me the book," the dwarf replied, holding out her hand. Her cheeks began to flush.

Kianna stood for a moment then crouched to pry the tome out from beneath the cabinet, "What is it anyways?" she asked her lip quivering.

Tamarack ripped the book from her hands and clutched it to her chest. "Nothing appropriate for children, and you know it!" she snapped. "What's the matter with you?!"

"I liked the creatures," replied Kianna beginning to tear up, "I'd never seen a good picture of a mind flayer before."

"You can't look at things like this, you understand me?" Tamarack continued, her volume rising. "You know this isn't for you, or you wouldn't have hid away with it! If you want some nice art I can get you some nice art, but for Odinthor's sake, you can't fill your mind with this rubbish!"

Kianna was dumbfounded, "Is this because of all the naked women?" she querried gently.

Tam's jaw dropped a little. "Well, what did you think? Are you just playing dumb on purpose? I'll not abide it, Kianna!"

"Well it wasn't really hidden, I thought it was a cookbook!"

Tamarack felt stupid for hiding it the way that she did. Did she really suppose no one would ever find it? "Well, now it's ash and smoke!" she bellowed, flinging the volume into the hearth and watching the pages curl and burn. She fetched the other book from the shelf and tossed it in, too. She leaned on the warm stones above the fire and fumed silently. She had known for plenty of years now that she was personally beyond salvation, but how could she corrupt a child? This was too much. She hadn't realized just how much she was going to have to change about herself in order to care for this girl. She wasn't ready to let go of everything yet, and watching those books burn tore her apart inside.

"What in the hells did you do that for?" Kianna shrieked, "couldn't you have just put them somewhere till I was old enough for whatever reason!"

Sucking in a sharp breath, Tamarack spun around and smacked the girl across the face.

Kianna sobbed, more from the indignity than the actual pain and fled the house, a few heartbeats after she had left the door abruptly slammed of its own volition.

Tamarack slumped into a chair, resting her forehead on the table. She felt like the worst parent in the world. She succumbed to a very rare bout of tears.

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