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The liquid burned her mouth and tasted of putrid acid, for all she knew, it was. Wincing hard she inclined her neck to force a swallow and then a deep intake of air. Recovering from the intolerable taste, the girl opened one eye, then the other and glanced up to meet her fathers rather dissapproving stare. His face softened and then he took the cup from her outstretched arm that she seemed so unwilling to hold, as if the pewter itself was made from stinging foliage.
"Honestly Ceinwen, if you persist with this stubbornness your health will never improve and you will be locked away indoors!". Shaking his head with the smallest of smirks upon his face he made his way out of the room gently swirling whatever liquid was left within the glass. Once she was sure he was out of sight, Ceinwen folded her arms churlishly and collapsed back on to the bed staring hard at the ceiling. The room was small yet pleasantly furnished with well crafted pieces shipped in from the city merchants. The dim light filtered through the window and in the distance, faint guests of wind could be heard. The last days of winter seemed to last forever and rain began to gently pat against the window, the cold emanating from the stone floor. From the other room Ceinwen could just about hear her parents discussion and she closed her eyes tight hoping that this would improve her hearing somewhat.
"Honestly, what is this stuff you make her drink Roayla? Is it really necessary, you know how much disdain she has for it?" Her father spoke in a plain but kind manner while staring into the cup, chuckling to himself quietly. "Has there been any improvement?"
"There have been signs.. Some days she seems brighter, you know that. There is no need to worry dear, this is only a minor set back, many of the children suffer with all sorts of ailments. Cein is no different. Besides, I was given assurance from a Stormwind medic that this treatment was as effective as any other, natural is always the better alternative to.. other.. procedures. I will not have the Clerics treat her as a lab rat for something that will be over in a matter of days, at the worst, weeks." Roayla leaned closer to her husband taking the cup away, turning and placing it on the cill.
"Someone may notice eventually, Roa." His voice suddenly sounded weary and strained.
"Come dear, sit and rest a while." She leaned in and kissed him softly on the cheek then tilted her head to the side, staring at him intently. "You've barely had a moments rest and you needn't worry over this for now. Has there been any word from Lordaeron?. She then heard her mother quietly request some wine and bread from one of the housemaids.
"There has been word from the North, the men are returning, and with them the Prince. The reports have been of victory." Jedram lifted his hand to accept a goblet from one of the maids. He sipped it slowly.
At this Ceinwen's ears pricked up and she slipped out of bed silently and stepped carefully across the cold stone floor. She moved closer to the door and pressed her ear upon the wood close to a small crack, but in doing so the door creaked ever so slightly and the conversation ceased immediately. She tried to skip back to her bed in time but her small legs could not carry her fast enough as the door swung open and both her parents stood in the doorway.
"Darling, what are you doing out of bed? It's late and you know you should be... resting." Her mothers words trailed off as her stern gaze broke and fell. A single, thick line of crimson was trailing down Ceinwen's arm, however Ceinwen had failed to notice until she followed her own mothers eyes, her face shadowed with sadness. A moment later her father strode past his wife and gently picked Ceinwen up in his arms.
"I will take care of this. I will settle Ceinwen and return for supper." Jedram nodded to his wife and then carried his daughter from the room.
Moments later they were in her fathers secondary quarters where he often spent time deep in prayer or in some form of study. He lowered himself down to sit on one of the many wooden stools that seemed to litter the room. Gazing up the walls she could see hundreds of large, dusty, leather bound books neatly organised. There was a gently warm feeling within the room. With Ceinwen perched on one of his large thighs he gently pulled back the linen sleeve of her nightgown. He placed the palm of his hand to her forehead and gazed deeply and lovingly into his child's eyes. "Trust in the Light, child. Always trust in the Light". His gaze then fell to her frail forearm and he began unravelling the seemingly failing linen bandaging applied earlier in the day by one of the house staff. The bandage was now mostly crimson and the blood was beginning to seep through. His eyebrows drew together as he carefully began to study the patches of skin affected. There were similar markings over her skin however to the naked eye these just looked to be a malformed rash, purple or red in colour. Most could be covered but this one was as stubborn as the child and seemed to be reacting in a new way. Her father had prayed that all the markings would not evolve into such things, for then he was sure he would lose his most precious possession to this obnoxious condition. Ceinwen continued to observe the room intently. It was not often she would be allowed admittance into her fathers quarters. He believed it a dangerous and unnecessary place for a child, however Ceinwen just thought that this was an excuse as she could see little danger within the room. Leaning back ever so slightly her eyes fell upon her fathers armour. Even in the dim light it seemed to illuminate the room. It was beautiful not only to a child's eyes, but to anyone who's gaze fell upon it. The intricacy and craftsmanship was unfathomable. Almost lost in its beauty her eyes then fell upon something she had never seen before. A sword. It was resting on a deep emerald velvet cushion, long, slender and shining brightly from the corner of the room. She squinted her eyes to try and make out the delicate inscription which ran along the blade. Suddenly Ceinwen's attention was jolted back to the present. Her father closed his eyes and placed a hand gently upon her upper arm. She glanced down and saw what she could only describe as golden light swirling about his hand. Then suddenly but surely the warmth surrounded it, penetrated her skin and she felt the warmth radiate her entire body. The warmth left her as swiftly as it had some and solemness filled her heart. Her father removed her hand yet she didn't even need to look to know the results. The skin had healed, but only enough not to bleed. Beneath her, she felt her fathers body sag a little, maybe in disappointment, maybe in despair. "Does it hurt Cein?" Jedram stared sadly into her eyes. Ceinwen shook her head slowly, showing only slight signs of anticipation. The small child had a high tolerance for any pain yet this, somehow, just made her feel numb. She regarded the dark markings on her arm, sighed, then smiled up at her father.
Jedram embraced her and whispered "You must endure this child, you must. I have something special arranged for your birthday..But shhhh.. Do not let your mother know I mentioned anything at all.. She will have my head and feed my body to the boars!". Ceinwen let out a quiet childish giggle and embraced her father as tightly as she could.
A few minutes later she lay once again, staring at the ceiling, this time with a hopeful smile and thought deeply about hundreds of impossibilities that that surprise could entail. It could have been her imagination but for a moment she believed she felt the comforting swell of warmth within her once again, but for only a moment.
Her legs hurtled, one foot after another, hitting the ground hard although making little noise aside from the light padding noise of her small feet hitting the soft dewy grass. A slight morning mist still hung in the spring morning air. She focussed on her fathers instructions only. The air rushed past her, cold against her skin and her heart was thumping hard and the stinging in her chest was almost crippling as her lungs heaved for more air. Ceinwen was small and light, but easily exhausted due to her seclusion from the outside world and all the activities that would have gone with it as a child. She had not yet learned the art of vigilance. Thoughts raced through her mind. How had it come to this?! Closing her eyes momentarily, Ceinwen tried to shake these intruding thoughts out of her head. Upon opening her eyes she focussed only on what lay ahead of her, not behind.
"..Mother.. Must get to..Mother"
She repeated it again and again. A silent tear running down her cheek and for a moment she believed her body would just cease to function over the extreme agony that was writhing though her whole body.
She did not know the area well at all but recognised the cut through to the out laying village almost instantly from her fathers brief but accurate description. The terrain had become harder, and rougher. Her small, fragile, bare feet taking brunt of the grounds attack. In the distance she could see the small tower of a village hall. That very same moment her food collided even more painfully with something hard and cold. Ceinwen's body flew towards the ground at great speed, hitting the ground hard. It felt like all the air from her lungs had suddenly been sucked out of her and for a moment everything went dark. With the pain and frustration overwhelming her, she forced her face away from the ground and extended both her arms to push herself into a rather awkward seated position. The thick lining of trees cast shadows over the long grass and for a moment it was a struggle to make out anything in particular. Once she had steadied herself a little more and regained some focus it appeared that there was some form of figure that could only just be made out within the shadows. Then came a sound that anyone would not fail to recognise. A quiet spluttering followed by strained breathing. The thing she had stumbled over was human and barely alive. Quickly she crawled clumsily closer to what appeared to be a man and apparently some high-ranking official of some sorts. The man's armour was of fine quality yet was covered in deep crimson blood. He coughed and a curdling noise came from his throat, a light splattering of blood suddenly came out of his mouth which showered over Ceinwen's face.
"You..No time.. Listen." Said the man in a rasping voice.
Ceinwens heart was bounding so hard in her chest she thought it might burst. The man was in dire need of aid yet the blood was trickling out of the wound to his neck so fast that she could tell that he didn't have a great deal of time left. The man reached up his pale bloody hand to her face. She remained as still as possible, suppressing the urge to cry or scream or run as fast as she could to some form of normality. The man tried to hold her face feebly.
The voice came through gurgles of blood. "Girl.. take horse.. Escape!"
His hand lifted from her face, made a gesture to a patch of trees about 200 yards away and then dropped limply to the floor. The man lay still and no sound, not even breath issued from his body. Mortified, she placed her hand gently over his face and closed his vacant, glassy eyes in hope that he could now find peace. Ceinwen stood up slowly, shaking head to foot. She glanced sadly from the man then towards the trees and back to again. Unsure determination set upon her face, she backed away from the man slowly at first and then turned and started into a run. She stopped suddenly, swearing she heard movement from behind her. Ceinwen's head swung round quickly but she could see nothing. Narrowing her gaze, she once again focussed back to her destination and ran. Some of the branches hit against her face as she ran through the trees and jumped over a few bushes. There it was. She stopped.. There in between two great trees stood a magnificent black steed fully armoured in beautifully crafted plate. Its reigns dangled from the nuzzle to the grass and dragged along as the creature turned its head towards Ceinwen. The horse swept its tail calmly as if to acknowledge her presence with its great towering body remaining still, both Ceinwen and the horse stood there, staring at each other.
A pale, eerie mist had descended upon the forest and Ceinwen felt a new chill rush against her skin that was not caused by the fast galloping of the horse. The steed was young and obident. The moment she had clambered clumsily upon him, he seemed to know instinctively the direction in which she wanted to pursue. Ceinwen clung on desperately, clamping her legs tightly against the saddle. Her experience in riding was minimal at best.
Even though she was convinced it must be late afternoon, she could see no sign of the glorious sun that had graced the land with its presence earlier in the day. The sky had darkened over the thickening forest and the air was dank. A greater fear rose up inside her chest. She saw dark shapes moving in the trees, of which she could make no forms which resembled any creature she was aware of. She was weak and her body felt as though it might shatter from pain, hunger or fatigue at any given moment. Ceinwen wound the reigns even more tightly around her tiny arms and closed her eyes, her head lolling in tandem with the horses strides.
The horse stopped abruptly and its passenger jolted upright, fully awake now. They had arrived in a clearing at the end of the forest. It was dusk now and Ceinwen's ceremonial robes were doing little to keep her warm as the drop in temperature seemed to penetrate right to her bones. The land was hilly and pale lights could be seen from a few farmsteads in the distance. Looking for location markers used by her father, she tugged at the reigns and urged the steed to continue west.
After a few hours they arrived at a grand, stone manor house. Ceinwen let out a deep sigh of happiness and slid down from the horse. She noticed briefly that none of the house candles had been lit but this thought was extinguished immediately as she was suddenly aware of the pain in her legs and feet again. Doing her best to ignore this, she ran to the huge wooden door, which for some reason was already ajar. Pushing it open slowly she called for the house staff.
“Ailane..? Maela.? Venthar..?”
As she went from room to room she repeated their names. Why weren't they responding? Opening the doors one by one. But all was quiet and still. Ceinwen knew this was not normal and began to race faster through each of the rooms until she came to her mothers study. She flung open the door.
The moonlight now shone through the window, a bright beam casting right over the table of which Ceinwen's mother lay slumped and motionless.
Surely her mother had just been tired and fallen asleep in the afternoon. But where were the house staff? They should have roused her and taken her to her bed chamber. Narrowing her eye's with frustration, Ceinwen darted forwards to shake her mother. She was cold and her skin was white snow. Perhaps this was a trick of the light, she thought. Something wasn't right. There was nothing that she wanted more in the would than the warm, loving affection and protection from her mother, but she would not respond. She began to sob hopelessly. Suddenly, to her delight, the body began to stir.
Her mother raised her head slowly from the table only.. half of her face seemed deformed. The jaw was dislocated and hanging loosely form one side of her face. As the head of her mother moved further upright the rays of moonlight fell upon the grotesque mutation of her face, cracking and dripping noises issuing from her as she moved. Ceinwen gasped and jumped back in horror, the tears falling silently down her cheeks. Her throat contracted and before she knew it, she was slumped over on her knees vomiting violently onto the floor in front of her. Weakly, she looked back up to the sickening animated corpse. Nothing in the world could have prepared her for what was before of her eyes. Where the jaw was broken from the left cheek there hung torn pieces of flesh revealing the white bone of her skull. The entirety of her mothers left cheek and jaw had been ripped from her face, a dark empty socket where her eye should have been. Her dark, long hair had been ripped from the remaining flesh on that part of her head and any patches that remained were wild and scraggly. However in gruesome contrast, the right side of her face was as perfect and beautiful as it had ever been with sleek black hair trailing over her shoulder. The remaining eye stared straight at Ceinwen as if attempting to bore into her soul. She could now see her mother's once lavish robes were now torn and covered in deep crimson blood. The corpses arms raised from its sides and those too were drenched in patchy stains of blood. Cloth and flesh alike were ripped from the bones.
Trembling, Ceinwen rose to her feet and edged back slowly away from this abomination. This seemed to register with the corpse as well as it began to quicken its movements, as if waking up from a long sleep and regaining awareness of your surroundings. The jaw swung down and blood poured down the chin and chest and a loud, gurgled moaning noise issued from the mouth of the creature. The chair made a harsh scraping noise against the floor as it was pushed away from the table. The corpse of her mother rose to full height although hunched forward somewhat. It swayed on the spot. Ceinwen's eyes widened as she glanced down to see that, where a foot would have once been, was now just a bloodied stump of a bone standing in a pool of its own secreted blood. The corpse started slowly towards her and the bone clunked horribly on the floor like an old man's walking stick.
“Mummy..no!”, Ceinwen wailed through the uncontrollable sobs, repeating it over and over.
She was having a nightmare. None of this was real. Soon her father would come in to wake her and once again she would hear the songbirds singing serenely in the trees of the orchard. She closed her eyes tight and opened them once more. The animated corpse still stood there in all of its grotesque glory. Another moan issued from it's mouth and it made a sudden swiping movement in the the direction of where Ceinwen stood shaking. She screamed and darted from the room as fast as she could.
As she ran through the rooms panting and thumping across the stone floor, the horrible noises still issuing from the passages behind her. She threw herself into a door to the left of a hallway. Silence had fallen. The room was lit by the pale moonlight she could see belongings strewn across the floor, her belongings. Coming to her senses almost at once, she eyed the floor with strained eyes and moved slowly and very carefully to where a woollen cloak lay. A loud, slow clanking noise came from the hallway and she stood stock still, holding her breath in terror. Ceinwen froze, listening intently. Slow footsteps were closing in on her location. Not normal footsteps though. The corpse was dragging along the hallway, its flesh of one foot squelching on the floor then the sound of the bone of the deformed leg thudding on the stone and then grinding a little. This grotesque noise echoed down the hallway and came to a sudden halt by the door to the bedroom. Ceinwen's body shook violently with fear and she felt the urge to vomit again, but this time tried in desperation to keep it in. Tears streamed silently down her face and she absent-mindedly drew her hand up and placed it tightly over the failing bandages as she felt the warm blood starting to trickle down her arm. These minutes felt like an eternity. She closed her eyes tightly and prepared herself, this was it. To her utter amazement the horrid movement of the creature had decided that this area was clear and continued to drag itself down the hall. As quietly as she could, Ceinwen reached for the cloak and wrapped it round her cold body, binding it tightly at the neck. This was the first tiny comfort she had felt in hours. Squinting, she attempted to make out some of the other objects thrown around the room. Pulling a leather satchel towards her, she filled it with a few items of clothes, a tiny linen doll and a few spare bandages that had seemed to have landed in various places across the floor. Trying to remain quiet, she felt about for her leather boots. Pulling some socks painfully over her muddy and injured feet, she tried to ram one foot quickly into the left boot. Pulling it off quickly, she fished inside to pull out the object that was stuck inside. Ceinwen's heart sank heavily and burst with sadness and she picked out her mothers silver locket, which she had given her just yesterday for a birthday gift. She let out a quiet sob and slowly placed the chain round her neck. Once the shoes were laced, she swung the satchel strap across her body. She noticed a small jar glinting in the moonlight and proceeded to pick it up and place it in the satchel.
The house seemed still and silent now. The only sound seemed to be the soft hooting of an owl somewhere in the treetops. The corpse was apparently motionless in its resting place. Ceinwen took this chance to clamber atop her bed and reach for the latch of the window. There followed a loud creaking and no matter how slowly she proceeded to open the window to full, the damage was done. Once again loud moans and clunking came from the corridor behind, this time at a faster pace. Ceinwen's heart beat painfully in her chest and the door to the room swung open with a horrendous bang as it hit the large oak dresser by the doorway. She only took a moment to glance behind her and see the ghoulish figure silhouetted by moonlight in the doorway. Using all her strength she pulled herself up to the window ledge and threw herself out. The creature lunged and a mangled, bony hand had caught her ankle. Screaming, Ceinwen writhed in pain and anguish, attempting to beat the creature off her. She swung stupidly and once again screamed, but this time a surge of warmth seemed to fill her body. There was a sudden burst of bright golden light. The creature let out a howl of pain and let go of Ceinwen's ankle instantly and recoiled. She dropped head first onto the cold, hard floor and upon hitting it let out a cry of pain. Clawing at the ground, she pulled herself up from the mud and staggered quickly to the shadow of the large magnificent horse who was still standing exactly where she had left him. The horse, seemingly aware of her condition, dropped slowly to its knees and let out a soft neighing noise. On reaching the horse, Ceinwen collapsed onto the saddle. She lay sprawled and almost motionless across horse's back and would have looked dead had it not been for the rise and fall of her back and the soft sobbing noise coming from within the steeds mane. The horse rose to its full height carefully and began to trot eastward, back towards the forest.
Behind them all that could be seen was dark moving figures from the upstairs windows of the manor house, silhouetted in the moonlight.
The end, for now..
Beyond the Wall
The rain tapped gently against the window as the diamond shaped leadlite framed glass rattled against the gusts of wind in their frames. She traced her finger down the glass following one of the droplets as it trickled slowly downwards. In the distance, the moon hung full and bright in the ink black sky and reflected across the turbulent waves below. Her breath began to mist the panes of glass as she stepped closer to the window ledge. The wind blew more strongly and it rushed through the leaves on the trees so fast that hundreds of leaves were swept from the branches in the gale.
Her eyes travelled down onto an opposing window which illuminated those within with the pale warm glow of the candle light. From within she could see a stout, middle age woman mouthing silently to a child across the room. The child turned on its heels to attempt escape but it was too late. The woman had latched onto the child by the hair, pulled it over her knee and spanked it hard. The screams could be heard faintly just above the noise of the unrelenting storm. Talaith began to fiddle unconsciously with a few strands of hair which had fallen forward from her long brunette pony tail.
Suddenly came the noise of china smashing and a long, shuddering, moan of pain. Talaith’s attention shot away from the window at once and she sped down the stairs two steps at a time to the source of the noise. Her mother stood there, one arm propping herself up against the sideboard and the other clutched tightly about the bump protruding from her belly. Her face was screwed up in agony as Talaith ran to her, pulling her arm away from the sideboard to around her neck. Talaith’s mother, Eydrana, was not a small woman by any means.
“No, not now! It can’t be now!” her mother cried as she grasped so tightly onto Talaith’s shoulder she nearly stumbled.
Talaith bit her lip and continued to support her mother until they reached one of the bed chambers. The lamps had already been lit and the small fire was hissing and crackling. At least it was warm in here, she thought.
‘Jarah!” Talaith yelled as loud as she could as she helped her mother onto the bed.
The sound of feet scuttling along the wooden floorboards came from above and moments later a small boy entered the room panting.
“Tala, whaa..?” the boy blurted before he looked round the room,horror struck. His dark brown eyes growing wide in the candle light. His mother lay there groaning and screming in agony on the bed.
“Get Merayna, quickly, go!” Talaith barked at her little brother and her eyes followed him as he ran from the room. The door slammed open and shut in the gale and moment’s later little footsteps could be hears squelching at great speed through the puddles.
It felt as if whole days had gone past yet the sun risen only once and set only mere hours ago.
Talaith pushed her hands into the scorching water. It seemed to take all her energy to scrub the blood from the linen and towels. Footsteps echoed down the corridor and Talaith turned to see Merayna. She was tall, with a head of thick black hair pulled tight back into a bun. Dressed in robes of dark linen she stood in the doorway silhouetted by the candle light. Merayna’s expression of severity seemed to be etched on her face at all times. Placing more sheets on the wooden table to the right she peeled off a pair of gloves and added them to the pile.
“A boy”, she said severely. “Healthy and nursing. You will send the gold by the end of the week girl.” Merayna gave Talaith a stern look, turned on the spot to retrieve her travelling cloak and made the way to the door.
“Oh and, the father is prominent.” she flicked the latch off the latch, stepped stiffly through the doorway and closed the door hard behind her.
Pulling her hands out of the blood tinged water, Talaith pulled a clean towel to her to wipe her head then her forehead. She made her way down the corridor, knocking softly on the door. The wooden door creaked as she pushed the door open. She could see her mother laying there, exhausted and pale, sweat still present on her brow. Jarah was sitting huddled in the corner of the room, playing with a small toy. The warmth from the fire was welcoming and her mother looked on her with a smile.
“Come here child”, she said, “Tala, isn’t he perfect?”
Talaith looked down on the infant writhing it his mothers arms, then back to her mother and kissed her softly on the head.
“Merayna was right”, Talaith said, staring at the child, “He has so much of father in him.”
“Will you go to him and tell him? For me, please?” Eydrana pleaded to her daughter.
Talaith nodded in response, “Of course mother.”
“Oh and there is one more thing,” Eydrana reached for a letter that had already been opened on the side cabinet next to a diminishing candle. Jarah darted round the side of the bed clutching a fresh candle in his small hands, lit the wick and replaced it into it’s holder. In an attempt to help his mother he quickly grabbed the letter and threw it up at his sister.
Her eyes darted from side to side trying to take in the words scrawled in tiny, messy writing across the parchment. She looked up with a mixed expression of uncertainty and trepidation and gazed over to her mother.
“How long have you had this?” Talaith asked quietly, turning away from her mother to stare at the hearth, holding the letter loosely in her hands.
“It was delivered 3 days ago but I fear it has been weeks since it was sent. It asks much of us all.” Eydrana said slowly, adjusting herself slightly, wincing in pain. “It is dangerous Tala, but I spoke with Georran, he owes a dept to us. He has trade dealings with some supply ships and can take..”
“He can take me, and me only,” Talaith cut across her mother. “It is too dangerous and there is less chance it will be noticed should I go alone,” her eyes flicked momentarily to Jarah.
“Mother I can wield a dagger, send me too! I am brave and strong as any, I swear I will protect Tala, I will, I promise!” Jarah’s eyes were like glinting hazel orbs to match his beautiful dark brown hair. He stood rigid as as a soldier might.
Talaith turned, smiling warmly to Jarah letting out a small chuckle. She knelt down in front of him, rubbing the side of his arms with both hands affectionately.
“One day Jarah, you will make a fine Gilnean warrior, but that day is not today. You must be strong and help mother in any way she requires you to. I will summon Lira back to assist you but you are the man of the house now and you must ensure the health of your new little brother and our dear mother. See that all is done as it should be and no suspension is aroused. When I return, we will celebrate with every treat you can think of, dear brother,” she kissed him gently on the nose and smiled. Straightening up, she made a salute to her brother, to which he made the best effort in returning it.
“I trust in you little Lord Wintershore,” Talaith beamed down to him then averted her gaze back to her mother. “I shall prepare and depart tomorrow evening.”
“Your father and your uncle would be so proud to see you go in their stead. Ceinwen is the last that remains a Wintershore save us, you must ensure her safe return to Gilneas,” Eydrana said as she shifted her position in the bed and began to fiddle with the cloth around the infant, cradling him protecively.
It was a cruel world, she thought. The pain of her fathers passing had not subsided and the emotions were still raw. She wanted to away from the world that passed beyond the gates.
Pulling her quiver over her back, Talaith gathered up her travelling cloak, trowing it over her and tying it tight at the neck. She had packed light, taking only what was necessary but she had donned her finest armour of dark dyed green leather and chain mail with ornate gilded markings tracing the edges of the leather. Her father had been strict and ensured she know how survive with only her instinct, whit and a bow. She would never match his skill, but it was something he had given her that she could ever forget. The happiest years of her life had been spent if the forests with her father; hunting for game and collecting useful herbs. She would have given anything to have just one of those days back. Taking up the bow, she traced her fingers over the beautiful engraved wood and lost herself for some moments. A soft sigh came forth from her and she smiled sadly. She had said her goodbyes to her beloved mother, her little brothers Jarah and Walren earlier. She would miss them so very much. Never before had she been further from them than the outsirts of the forest. If all went well then it would only be a matter weeks before she would see them again. As Talaith had kissed her baby brother Walren goodbye she felt a strange pang of dread in her stomach. An unexplainable feeling that she could not explain. Her father had gone beyond the wall, yet he had never returned. Gathering up a lamp and the remainder of her belongings, Talaith straightened herself up, quietly flipped the latch off the door and gently pulled gently shut behind her.
Tonight was a calmer, quiet night. The moon shone peacefully over the sea. The flame flickered as the lantern swung in her grasp. The night air was cool and no doubt there would be a light frost over the land come the morrow. Talaith made her way along the path, gravel crunching under her feet as she went. Holding the lamp out in front of her, she turned left, away from the village. She followed a small meandering dirt path up the hill until she reached the gates of the graveyard. The head stones varied in size and shape. Some were grand and adorned in all manner of things. Yet some were just simple monuments made from the wood of the forest. She stepped carefully between the graves until she reached the ebony stone decorated with flowers and wreathes that had long since died. Placing the lamp next to the grave, she noticed a small linen hound shaped toy that had been half buried into the mound to hold it in place. Kneeling down, she placed a hand onto the head of Jarah’s doll and the tears began to well in her eyes. Talaith then stared back at the stone, illuminated in the lamp light.
Walder Wintershore - Beloved husband - Beloved father to Talaith, Jarah and a child whose face he will never see. Forever loved, forever missed. Rest well my love.
She took a deep breath in and looked around her to ensure she was alone.
“I...” she began uncertainly, “Father.. you have a son. A beautiful son, he has your eyes and your dark hair and..” she paused for some moments, tears welling in her eyes, “He is strong. Mother still rests and is weak, but.. Jarah and Lira will look after her and she will be strong once again. I am to leave father. I... wish you were still here, you would know what to do, what to say.”
Talaith blinked the tears away. Wiping her face quickly she then made to pull the letter from her cloak and unfold it in the lamplight.
“A letter came. I can’t even be sure whether it is Ceinwen’s hand,” she said quietly as she glanced over the writing once again, “Its erratic and messy in comparison to her previous letters. She always sent news of excitement and all the happenings of the lands. But now father, I am called to leave to go to her and I feel only longing to stay. She asks for help, yet I don’t know that I am ready. Help me find my courage, father. I was never as strong as you.” She pulled a small, white rose from her pack and placed it carefully along the grave mound.
“But my promise to you father, I will return to you, mother and my brothers. I will try to make you proud father.” She leant forward placing her hand to the stone as tears trickled down her cheeks. She remained there, alone in the dark several long moments.
Straightening up, Talaith pulled her hood over her head securely, she made her way from the graveyard in the direction of the small fishing port that lay to the west.
The end, for now.. ========================================================================
A gentle breeze fell upon her skin as she pulled her hair round her neck to drape down over her chest. As she sat, her toes playing unconciously with the cool grass, there was a slight disturbance in the silent air. The sun was low in the sky and it glittered through her hair creating beautiful patterns upon her skin. Leaning back slightly, she placed her hand down on the ground to support her but quickly recoiled it sitting bolt upright. Grasping the injured hand she turned it over to see crimson blood seeping from the tiny wound. A feeling of annoyance rose within her as she picked up the small shard of concrete and inspected, carefully running her fingers over the gritty surface. Her eyes focussed carefully on the shard and then as she leaned her head to the side she once again gazed over the incomprehendable devestaion that had passed into her homelands. What was once part of a beatiful shining city had succome to the grey destruction of the scourge. As she stared, expresionless, she clutched her necklace tightly and then took a sharp breath in as she felt a hand upon her shoulder.
"Delaniel said I would find you here.." said the quiet and soft voice from behind her. "She..also said you have been coming here everyday for a while now".
Exhaling the breath in recognition of the familiar voice, she remained silent, continuing to fiddle with the small shard in her hand.
Adjusting the grip on her shoulder, the person stepped around her to crouch down to look at her directly in the eyes. At that moment Luaria averted her eyes from her sisters gaze and looked upon her elegant robes and finely crafted armor feeling rather inferior and plain. Shifting awkwardly for a moment she raised her eyes back up to meet those of her sisters. Her sister looked at her and then smiled sofly.
"You know it's time, don't you?"
Luaria replied with a determined nod. She had so many questions, there was so much confusion, but now was not the time.
As her sister raised elegantly from her crouching position. Luaria pushed at the ground in a rather unrefined manner to assist her rising. Standing up straight she brushed down her robes, which were, to say the least, unkempt. Ash and mud stains covered some of the lower part of the purple robes and the remaining material looked old and worn.
(Sadly now if you see Luaria on DB - it's not me! Some pleb nabbed my name before I name saved it after a name change. Luaria became Lurini in Cataclysm and will possible morph into a panda soon..ish.. maybe!)
Dust & Darkness
There was a loud thud, followed by the sounds of heavy footsteps thumping across the floorboards, which bowed and creaked under the weight of whatever had entered the room. One tiny crack in the wall allowed a small ray of light to enter the room and through its pale, almost insignificant light the dust floated about heavily.
On the floor, curled up in a tight ball was a small creature. She kept her eyes firmly shut, finding meagre comfort in the darkness, but then it came. Another heavy thud, this time hitting her in the backside like a brick hitting a sandbag. This time her eyes were forced to clench even more tightly shut which the rest of her body writhed and fought against the pain pulsing from her rear. She dares to open one eye just a fraction in an attempt to get a glimpse of her attacker. However before she knew it a fist thundered down upon the top of her head, grabbed a clump full of her hair and dragged her out of the the room, her torso scraping across the wooden floor. Suddenly she had been tossed out of the room and landed face first in what appeared to be very hot sand, some of which had unexpectedly entered her mouth. Coughing and spluttering she spat out as much sand as she could and then tried to open her eyes. The sun was bright and white hot, beating down on her relentlessly. It took several moments for her eyes to adjust to the light. Her body was aching in so many areas now. No idea as to where she was, her head swam and her body swayed, trying to take in her surroundings. Water, strange looking buildings with twinkling lights, sand, tress, boats and many small green figures carting heavy looking boxes from place to place.
“Oi!”, shouted a deep stern sounding voice. This was followed by a hard slap to the head.
Her head snapped back and she focused very quickly on the two rather ugly beings looming over her. She scurried into a seated position and began to tug nervously at her hair as she gazed up helplessly. The figure on the left was a very fat, ugly, green skinned male with bat like ears. He had several golden rings and chains round his neck and had a sardonic grin plastered across his face. The other, female in appearance yet not that dissimilar to the male. She was wearing an ugly, poorly fitting robe with bulges of fat splitting the seams. Various sparkling items dangled from her fat neck and her orb like eyes glared down to the figure on the floor, her arms were crossed angrily across her rather large chest.
“Eh-heh-heh-heh! Look what I found all washed up. A filthy little runt!” The male cackled in a horrible low rasping voice.
The female raised her eyebrow then nodded. “You've outdone yourself this time, Dracip”.
Dracip rubbed his pudgy hands together in glee. “Thank you Rekir. I take it I will be getting a bonus then?” His eyes narrowed greedily.
“We will see. All depends on how productive she is. Where is she to be placed?” Recir scoffed in a high pitched, wheezing voice.
Dracip raised his had to his mouth and considered for a moment.
“The Smokeywood Pastures crates are already being shifted in preparation. The season is just about here and they need everything we can spare. I don't see this runt being of use in anything more important. Besides, customers may see that pathetic face of hers, take pity and buy more!”
“So you do have a brain after all.” Rekir laughed while glaring at him in surprise. Her evil gaze then returned to the dishevelled, confused looking figure still huddled up in the sand.
The creature fiddled with her dark, knotty hair at greater and greater speed as she looked between to two horrible captors. Dracip took a step forward and bent low, his nose almost touching hers.
In a loud voice that made her jump he bellowed “What is your name?”.
Her eyes widened and her head filled with panic. She looked about quickly, from one building to another, at the other creatures and at the crates. Name, she thought, name..?!
Rekir snorted and kicked sand into her face. She spat angrily “Answer him, little runt, or Runt will be your name! Or is all the sand getting into those big ears of yours and clogging your brain'.
She wiped her eyes fast to try again get the painful stinging sand out of them. Horror struck her once again and she glanced at her hands and they too were green. She pulled at her head and felt two large ears protruding from her head. She tried to smack them down in some vain attempt that she couldn't possibly mirror their appearance. She then began to paw at her own face and her heart felt heavy with dread. Rekir was tapping her foot and suddenly Dracip's hand was raised again. In a panic she quickly pointed to one of the crates nearest to her. It was stamped with a large label 'TINSEL'. Dracip looked from her outstretched bony finger to the crate and then back to her. He let out a roar of laughter and she began to shake.
“Tinsel?! Your name.. is.. Tinsel?! Bwahaha!” Dracip could barely control himself.
She nodded avidly and shrank back again preparing herself for another blow to the head, but this time it didn't come. Glancing carefully at them both she could see they were both laughing.
“Very well. Take your precious crate and go over to that building” Recir, trying to retain some form of composure snorted and pointed to one of the buildings in the distance. “They will send you off to one of the cities should you actually prove to be of any worth. And you can sleep in that filthy hovel for the time being”.
Shaking, Tinsel got to her feet, staggered a little then snatched up the box. She scurried over to the building.
-Later that night-
The moon was shining brightly and its beautiful reflection shone off of the lapping water. In moonlight, Tinsel staggered back to the small dusty shed. She was utterly exhausted and still limped feebly from the days rough treatment, however a shadow of a smile was etched on her face. Her filthy top was slightly protruding strangely around the stomach area. Yanking the hatch open Tinsel settled herself on the dusty floor once again. From under her shirt she pulled out a long string of something strange. She angled it at the small crack of light coming in and watched it glitter and glint in the moonlight. She bounced a little and let out a little quiet squeel of excitement and remained watching it sparkle for some hours before eventually falling to sleep with it cuddled tightly in her arms.
Not by me.. but something to be kept.
"She bit her lip, too hard. A droplet of blood ran into her mouth. She hardly even noticed it, eyes focussed intently on the small thorn bush across the swampy lake. Darn sure that's where the sound came from.
Even the trained scouts of Stonard wouldn't have noticed her there, lying face-down in the mushy earth. It would all be worth it, she told herself.
A leaf rustled. Literally in a blink, the elf moved forward ten paces, leaping at the tiny winged creature. Before it knew what happened, the leash tightened.
Tired, the elf licked the blood off her lip. Indeed it had been worth it. The elusive whelp imediately succumbed to her, seeing there was no way out. The emerald scales glinted in the moonlight. It was time to go home. She deserved a wash."