by Etienne Suarven Lorneau,
in Dark Ages
Young Neil had been willing to visit Piet for a long
time, but his father could never take him there, always busy in his work.
It is not to be said that Tearlach Norven was an absent father; no, far
from that, he was a father to be proud of. But the job of his choice was
a very demanding one. For his ease in dealing with numbers, it seemed logical
at first to be a bookkeeper. Or even better, to open a bookkeeping office
and work for any store that would be willing to pay to have the finest
budget management in Loures. However, as many foretold, Tearlach gave too
much credit for his own abilities, and in those last months had submerged
himself in paperwork. From dawn to dusk he could be seen in his cold office,
his eyes red from the lack of light, writing piles of parchments, putting
the use of Mathematics in a new step. He did his best to be with his family,
but as work increased, free time decreased. And young Neil still wanted
to visit the city of Piet.
It was from the constant requests of her son that Elise decided to take him to Piet without her husband. She knew he would be most willing to take the whole family for a trip in the nice rural town, as well as she knew how much his job was taking away from him. "You will lose your sanity like this", she told him many times, and in fact he was close to that loss. Time would pass, however, and the craze would come to an end, giving her husband some more time to be with her and their son.
The first flowers were starting to appear the morning Elise and Neil took the coach to Piet. The planning for the day was all set: they would meet an old friend of hers in the city, and then walk around the town to get to know it. The mother and son should be back in the evening, in time for dinner.
As the coach stopped by the front door of the residence of the Arcail family, Elise was quick to recognize her friend Penelope in the front garden, who ran to open the door of the coach before the coachman did it, and greeted, with a warm hug, her old friend from Loures.
- Elise! What a pleasure it is seeing you. What took you so long to visit me? And who is this fine lad here, is he Neil? Oh, I remember you when you were just a little doll in your mother's arms!
- Neil has grown into a handsome little man, right Penelope? - Elise had a honest smile in her lips. - He wanted to come visit Piet, so I brought him.
Elise stepped down the coach, followed by a shy, silent Neil. After arranging her dress and the white shirt of her son, she again turned to Penelope.
- How have you been? I hope you are not too busy, because we planned to have you as company for the day.
- No, not busy at all, and it is always a pleasure to have guests. But not guests that do not speak...
Smiling, Penelope looked at Neil. The young boy smiled back, but turned his face away, blushing. His mother pointed that, for him, Penelope was a stranger, as the last time he had seen her was at least six years before, when he could hardly walk.
- Well, then, we will have to be introduced again. Hello there, Neil, I am Penelope. How are you?
- Fine, Miss Penelope! - Neil blushed more than before as the three words jumped out of his mouth all at once.
- Oh, but I am not a Miss, Neil, I am married. - Always smiling, Penelope looked around. - It is cold in here, we should stay inside for a little until it gets warmer. Coming?
The three entered the large house of the Arcail family. Baron Verinis was not there at the time, but would arrive at the evening, before Elise's parting. For one or two hours, they spoke about all sorts of things. Neil was a little bored at first, as his mother wove comments on half the society of Loures, but soon got interested when Penelope started numbering the many things to be seen in Piet.
After lunch, they left for their walk around the town. The sun was still partially hidden behind the white clouds, but it was not too cold. A few hours later, as they were returning, Elise asked if Verinis still had his horses.
- Ah, yes, many horses! Neil can go for a ride if he wants to.
Not as shy as before, now knowing Penelope a little better, Neil was quick to reply.
- I want!
The horses were not far from the house. Arriving there, Penelope asked Komne, the keeper, to bring a small horse for Neil, and teach him the basic techniques of riding. In less than twenty minutes Neil was already familiar with the animal, and rode all around without any trouble.
The vast field where the horses were kept did not provide much safety, and while his mother and her friend talked of old times and the keeper cared about the other horses, Neil found a broken fence he could cross. On horseback he arrived at a somewhat strange cavern. Leaving the horse behind, he entered it, despite the warnings that could be seen everywhere.
It was not long until Neil's absence was noticed. Elise and Penelope were in despair; Komne did not understand where the boy could have gone, until he saw the broken fence. Not far from there he saw the little horse he gave Neil, but no sign of the boy. It was then that he realized he was standing before the entrance to the Crypt of Piet, and ran back to tell the ladies about it. Their despair grew even more. Noticing the two women had no idea what to do, the keeper decided to do something on his own.
- I'll go find help!
Mounting the fastest horse in the farm, he ran to the city. Should he have taken a moment longer, he would have missed the two Aislings that were headed for Loures.
- Aislings! Help!
Philippe, the Wizard, in his long black Journeyman, seemed unaltered. Isabel, the Priestess, however, was quick to ask.
- What happened!?
- A boy! A young lad ent'red the Crypt!
Isabel, looked at Philippe, who nodded. Without a word, they started their way to the deadly cave. Komne rushed back to take the ladies to the Crypt. When the three arrived there, the Aislings were already inside.
No one knows exactly how long it took. Two minutes or one hour, for the three of them it was an eternity. Only after the sunset the Aislings returned from the Crypt. Philippe was clearly hurt, blood staining his severely torn Journeyman. Isabel's silvery hair was still neatly tied, but her gown seemed to have suffered quite a bit. Eyes filled with deep sadness, the Priestess whispered a few words.
- We were too late...
Elise fell on her knees, crying; Penelope could not move, her gaze fixed; Komne looked for support in a tree. Philippe was bringing Neil's body in his arms.
The door of Neil's bedroom was closed for many weeks.
Elise's life was restricted to those four walls, a restriction she imposed
herself. It was a large room which once served as her and Tearlach's bedroom;
Neil's was a smaller one. But his small bedroom was colder than his parents'
large one, they found it reasonable to make the change. The vast space
between the walls, however, was nothing in comparison to the emptiness
of Elise's heart. Her world had fallen to pieces the day she visited Piet.
Her regret could not be expressed in words - she found herself guilty of
the death of her son. "If only I had never taken him there..."
Tearlach, on the other hand, had not many choices. Three days he took to comfort his wife, despite the lack of usefulness of this act - Elise was submerged in her own tears, she would not even notice the husband by her side. It is a pity, however, that the man could not just leave the city immediately with his wife and go to a place were they could forget about everything and try to restart their life. No, the many obligations of the aristocracy they lived in denied him this right. After those three days, Tearlach returned to his books and calculations. His mind was already set, though: he would finish the pending work and take no more requests for a long time. The Norven family had a considerable amount of money in the bank, and could take a few Moons away from home, or even start over somewhere else.
Having received notice of her nephew's death only a Moon after the happening, Flynne Livanne, Elise's sister, could not be in Loures in time for the "ceremony". Flynne had left Loures the day of the Great Sacrifice, led by a stronger power directly to Mileth: she was an Aisling. Not only an Aisling, she was probably the greatest Aisling of Temuair. In less than five years Flynne had learned the ways of the Monks in detail, and now sought to control two Elements of Wizardry, Sal and Athar. All this greatness did not come without a price, however; her training was intense. The day Neil passed out she was somewhere in the Woodlands near Mileth, and the sun crossed the sky above her four times yet before she returned to Mileth. Her previous knowledge of the Craft of Cail allowed her to live with nature quite well, but the new dress she wore, and the traditional nobility of her new position, forced her return to civilization from time to time. And it was Riona who presented her with the sad news the moment she stepped inside the inn for the first decent night in a long time. The next morning Flynne left for Loures.
A knocking was heard in the door of the Norvens' residence, Tearlach was the one to open it. His astonishment was clearly visible, as he fixed his eyes in the representation of beauty that stood before him. Her long, dark hair shined like polished ebony under the sunlight, almost enough to surpass the natural shine of the blue of her eyes, "the fountains of Undine", as her father used to say. The dress of a light shade of pink matched perfectly the pale skin of that lovely creature. It took Tearlach more than a few moments to realize that what he judged to be a deity standing before him was his sister-in-law, but even then the words were hard to come from him.
- Flynne, I'm glad to see you.
Flynne was probably already used to the odd behavior of men when faced by her, but her sister's husband could not act like that. In a cold tone of voice she replied.
- Hello, Tearlach. It's sad that my visit is marked by such an awful event. How is my sister?
- Oh, Elise is not well at all... Come in, come in, we can speak inside.
After the Aisling entered, Tearlach closed the door and put himself to talk again.
- She's been in that room since that terrible day. I know I should mourn the loss with her, comfort her, but I have no time, and she seems not to notice my presence at all. It's good you came, you can talk to her, she might listen to you.
- I will try talking to her then, Tearlach. Excuse me.
The soft knocking on the bedroom door was not enough to attract Elise's attention - she remained sat on the bed, her eyes fixed at a point on the floor, her mind traveling somewhere else. Her sobs were dry, she had no more tears.
Flynne opened the door and got closer to her sister, who still remained immobile. Sitting by the sister's side, Flynne touched Elise's shoulder length brown hair, caressing it, and noticed a small movement in the also brown eyes of the lady of Norven. Leaving her hair, she touched her sister's cheek with the back of her soft hand, wiping dry a last tear that remained there.
- Hello there, Elise.
Elise finally turned her face to Flynne's, their eyes met. She noticed a smile in Flynne's lips, and returned it. But it was short-lived, being in less than a moment substituted by an expression of deep sadness. Elise put her arms around Flynne's neck and hid her face in the sister's left shoulder, starting to cry again.
- 'Twas my fault, Flyn. I took him there, 'twas me, 'twas my fault. My fault...
- No, Lis, it was not your fault. There is no reason to blame yourself.
- No, Flyn, 'twas me, I should've waited longer, but I wanted to take him there by myself, and he was taken from me...
Flynne gently pushed Elise back, and looked inside her eyes.
- It was not your fault, Lis, but his fate. Would happen one way or another, you have to accept it and be strong, move on, start over. Come now, wash your face, leave this room, eat something. Your life goes on, do not let it sink.
Standing up, Flynne gently pulled her sister by her shoulders, so she would stand too, and led her to the small basin there was by the side of the bed. Touching the bottom of it, the Aisling whispered a few words; water covered her hand, filling the basin. She wet Elise's eyes, washing away the sad look in them.
As if awoken suddenly, Elise put her own hands in the form of a shell and filled them with water from the basin, taking it to her face carelessly, so much it ran down to her neck. She dried herself with a small piece of cloth.
- Just that already makes you look a lot better, Lis.
Elise smiled softly. Flynne showed the way out from the bedroom, which she took. Without hesitation, Flynne closed the door behind them as soon as they exited.
- Elise! - Tearlach seemed surprised to see his wife coming out of Neil's bedroom. What he could not do in a Moon, Flynne had done in a few moments. That small feeling of uselessness came to be added to many others he already carried: the sadness for the loss of his son, which had to be swallowed to give work continuity; the love for Elise, in those last days turned more into compassion; and of course his sudden admiration for Flynne's unnatural beauty - she was well known to him, but that was the first time they met after her Ascension, and that probably increased the impact.
- Hello, Tearlach.
Those two words caused in Tearlach an impression, an odd feeling. Elise seemed to be another person. Of course, she would not be the same after losing her only son and crying for days, but there seemed to be more to her at that moment than her husband had noticed before. Her greeting was not full of sadness, as he expected; it was full of love. Not the marital love that brought them together under the Light of Danaan, but a different kind of love. Figuring he had been staying there with those words echoing in his mind for so long, Tearlach put an end to his contemplation. "Bah! 'Twas only two words, they can't mean anything more than a common greeting."
The sun of the early Spring day was high in the sky,
it was time for lunch. Flynne's visit was not expected at that day, and
Tearlach had found it reasonable to dismiss the household servants for
a time - nothing seemed to be able to take Elise out of those four walls,
and he preferred to be alone himself. Consequence, there was no lunch.
The only solution was to visit the nearby bakery, which was more famous
for its chicken than its bread. Flynne helped her sister change into a
light dress and comb her hair; then, leaving Elise in her bedroom, went
to speak a few words with Tearlach, who waited in the atrium. He noticed
as she walked inside, and asked:
- How's she, Flyn?
Flynne hesitated a step. Her brother-in-law had never treated her by "Flyn". It was rare to even see him call his wife by "Lis". But pretending she did not notice it, the step was taken and she planted herself in front of him.
- She seems fine right now, Tearlach, but I have no idea for how long. I had never seen my sister so sad before, not even when our parents fell victim to that foolish Priest...
Tearlach noticed the pressure in Flynne's eyes as she turned her face away, trying to hold herself together. Her - and Elise's - parents had been killed not many years before, in a trip to Rucesion, when a Priest of no soul summoned a being from the outworlds to aid him in an attack to the Dubhaim Castle. The being, however, did not follow the Priest's orders, and turned to attack the city. Many were the victims before the Wizards of Rucesion sent the thing back to its dimension. Flynne continued.
- Anyway, please do not mention anything about Neil, or even Piet. She will need time to recompose.
- I know, Flyn. I wouldn't hurt her more than she already is.
Nodding, Flynne left back to her sister's room, with a thought in her mind. "'Flyn' again... Would you not?"
During the improvised meal, it was decided that Elise and Tearlach would, in a few days, leave for Undine, where Iniar Norven, Tearlach's cousin, had a farm. In fact, the farm where Tearlach had been born. Very young he was taken to Mileth, and later moved to Loures to work. That was it, Iniar's farm would be the perfect place. There they could stay for a few Moons and decide what to do next. From a quick thought from Tearlach came the idea of inviting the Baron and Baroness Arcail to the trip, they would be a fine company. A letter would be sent to them that afternoon. Flynne, on the other hand, only accepted going after much insistence from Elise; Tearlach probably noticed her reasons, and after her third negative answer tried to keep his glance away from her, realizing his wife could have noticed it too.
A messenger arrived from Piet the next morning. "Message from Baroness Penelope Arcail." Verinis and Penelope would join them in Loures in three days, taking the ship to Undine the morning after.
Those three days were unlike most of the previous ones. Elise was happier than she was before her son's death, singing and dancing the hours away. Tearlach had only a little paperwork to finish, but was having trouble doing it, as the vision of his sister-in-law would not leave his mind. At the same time, he found his wife's behavior very odd, she had not been that happy since the day they got married, and sometimes he asked himself if she was not even happier now than at that day. Flynne, annoyed by Tearlach's constant eulogies, and even an attempt to touch her face, which he excused as being meant to remove a little piece of sweet from her cheek, preferred to pass her time practicing her magical arts. But what annoyed her the most was Elise's indifference in this matter.
The couple from Piet arrived in the afternoon of the expected day. Sitting by the garden's bench, watching the little movement presented by the streets of Loures, with a friend passing by to greet them from time to time, the group spent those hours talking about many subjects, but always avoiding any mention to Neil's death. Tearlach brought a current matter up.
- So, old friend Verinis, what do you think of the political positions being open to the public in our cities?
- I don' know, Tearlach, our pol'tics've been th' same for so long, no reason to change it now, open to the public.
- It is not "open to the public", good Baron. - Flynne intervened. - Only Aislings by many respected can occupy the new open positions. The old political system is still the same, under the happy rule of this capital.
Verinis did not like the irony, but before he could reply with another one, Penelope took the word.
- My husband's afraid to lose his prestige. I told 'im there's nothing to worry about, but he's still afraid. Our Piet is too close to Loures, even with the offices open there, the influence from the capital is too strong.
- Aye, my wife, but the ol' system is weak, ev'ryone knows it, and these "Aislings" are too influent for my tastes nowadays.
Tearlach started to regret bringing up the subject. Elise excused herself for a moment, went inside to get them something to drink. Penelope followed her, not wishing to take part in the battle that would soon start. Flynne, however, seemed to enjoy the talk, specially because Verinis had not noticed she was an Aisling.
- So you agree that the old system is decrepit, Baron Verinis?
- Decrepit? Mayhap that's too strong a word, but it sure is falling.
- The traditional system's been in place since Ainmeal conquered that castle over there! - Tearlach pointed the imposing figure of stone in the horizon above the roofs. - But since that day it's still figuring out what it's supposed to do!
- Exactly, Tearlach. On the other hand, the new system, ran by the Aislings, has the wind blowing from stern and accomplished many things for such a little time. Take Mileth, for example. The small city already has a full collection of laws, soon to be merged in a single Constitution. When it is done, other cities will soon follow the example, and we will finally have in the whole kingdom that which the old system has not provided us in all these years, a written code of laws.
- But that's not work of the politicians, lady, - Verinis defended his position - but of the lawmakers.
- I believe there'll be a full reformulation of all systems, friend Verinis, including the Judiciary.
- You are right again, Tearlach. When we say "Aisling political system" we mean the whole administrative machine being ran by the Aislings. The old political system has only been serving these last years for a few people who know whose boots to lick to ascend in their social life. Nothing else is being accomplished, it is a wonder that King Bruce is still in his throne.
- With that I'll have to agree, lady. These new Lords and Dukes that've been showing up lately are even an offense to us from the old times, who fought for our titles!
- But your title of Baron you got from your father, Verinis...
In Tearlach's forehead one could see "Irony" written, as Flynne did her best to contain her giggle. The Baron, whose title had indeed been the legacy left from his father, was saved when Elise and Penelope arrived back, bringing the drinks and some new ideas to prevent Flynne from walking over the dead body of Verinis.
- Tearlach, dear, why don't we have the harpiano brought outside, so we can have some music? It's so nice and warm here.
- It takes two people to play that thing, Elise, and you know I can't play anything. Let's leave it there.
- Oh, don' worry, Tearlach, - Penelope spoke - I can play with Elise, and then my husband can play a little too.
The harpiano, a large instrument of strings and keys to be played by two people at once, was brought outside. Tearlach was glad beyond words the fine artisans of Loures liked to put wheels under heavy furniture, or he would have to carry it with Verinis outside.
Elise and Penelope started playing, Elise in the strings, Penelope in the keys. The long time without training caused more trouble to Penelope than Elise, who seemed to have been playing day after day for years. Penelope could hardly follow the melody Elise played so naturally.
- Allow me the pleasure of a dance, milady? - Did anyone think Tearlach would lose the opportunity? Flynne accepted, it would be somewhat uncomfortable for them all if she said no, and Tearlach could not go far with three pairs of eyes set on them.
- Certainly, milord.
Tearlach tried to conduct Flynne in the waltz, but soon noticed he was the one being conducted. Not only that, Flynne had absolute control over his movements. He seemed to float in the air, carried by the winds. "Oh, such beauty, absolute beauty." But as Tearlach daydreamed about how his sudden passion for his sister-in-law was making him feel lighter than a feather, Verinis made a comment on how swiftly Flynne was dancing.
- If faeries dance they dance that way, lady! I'm impressed!
Falling from his heaven, which was not as exclusive as he thought, Tearlach released Flynne, but she continued to dance. The blossoming flowers followed her steps, and little drops of dew seemed to rise from the grass to pair her too.
- 'Tis like you're controlling air an' water, lady! Amazing!
Elise and Penelope had their reasons to be jealous, but conducted the music to its end. Flynne stopped, and nature returned to its place.
- Actually, Baron...
The Aisling smiled. Raising her hands, she whispered, "Sal, Athar. Come together, I ask of you." A small cloud quickly formed above Verinis, and raindrops drenched his expensive clothes.
- ...I am controlling air and water.
- 'Twas a good idea to catch the earliest ship, eh?
Nearly no one else on board and we'll be in Undine in time for lunch.
- Aye, Tearlach, but wakin' up so early after all that wine was no easy thing! - Verinis agreed, but added his complaint.
- Stop complaining, dear, we're going to wake up soon tomorrow too. - Penelope smiled innocently.
- Heh!? Why?
- We'll visit Suomi to see if I can find one of those fine jewels people say are sold there. But they're rare, only one is put to sale each day. So we must be there early.
- Oh, Penelope, ye've got some ideas into that mind of yers, I tell you... 'Twill kill me someday!
When the ship stopped in Rucesion, Elise asked her sister if there would be any other stops, and learned Abel was in the ship's route before Undine.
- Isn't Abel close to that small city... Mileth, isn't it?
- Yes, Lis, it is. The city where Aislings begin their journey.
Elise returned to her contemplation of the port of Rucesion, where the early morning movement slowly started to show its form. A few people boarded, others left the ship, cargo was taken out by the port workers, cargo was taken in. A sailor came to tell the captain they were all set, and the captain ordered the return to open sea. The boarding planks were removed, the ropes that kept the ship in port were untied. Led by the taste of the waves they sailed until the port was a small dot in the horizon, and the sails were set. "The winds are good today, kep'n!", a sailor commemorated. Elise looked at her sister, who was partially hidden from the rest of the people in the ship. She had her arms raised, and seemed to be concentrated on something. When Flynne noticed Elise was looking, lowered her arms and smiled at her. Immediately the wind diminished considerably. She raised her arms again, and the ship was propelled ahead at full speed. Elise found it better not to disturb her. "If Flyn wants to get to Abel quickly, so do I."
Abel was naturally busier than Rucesion, and since it was not as early anymore, movement was intense. People coming and going, cargo being boarded on the many ships in port, sailors and shoremen running to keep their schedules. Many new passengers came into the ship the group traveled to Undine on, and many of those from Rucesion or Loures left in Abel. A bit tired, Flynne approached Elise, who was still apart from her husband and Baron and Baroness Arcail. She gently held her sister's hair so the wind would not entangle it. Elise smiled, looking at Flynne.
- Flyn, I want to stay here.
Flynne smiled back.
- I know, Lis. Mileth is calling you too, is it not? I could see the Light shining in you since the beginning.
- Would it be alright if I left the ship now? What about them...?
- Will my answer make any difference?
Again, Flynne smiled. She and her sister stepped down the ship, leaving their three companions behind. Soon they were two unidentifiable ladies in a vast crowd. The ship left Abel, much slower now.
- Mileth is not far from here, Lis, but we can find a coach to take us there, if you want.
- No, let's go by foot, I want to see it all, everything in detail.
And the two headed for Mileth in a slow pace, observing the things in their way. Flynne explained about the Five Crafts an Aisling can choose from. Elise knew about the Monks and Wizards, as Flynne had already told her about these two, but had never heard of the Warrior, Rogue and Priest Craft. Experienced as she was, the Aisling told her sister everything she knew about each one of the Crafts. The Roguish abilities, from hairdressing to weapon mending; the Warriors' strength and affinity with weapons; the history of Cail and the Monks; the Wizards and the Four Elements they could use; the Priests and the Eight Deities. Elise was quick to recognize in the description of a Succubus the monster that had killed her parents years before.
- Followers of Sgrios...?
- Yes, Lis. Each of the eight Gods has followers, and grant their followers with something. Sgrios grants his followers with the ability to kill... Oh, look, there is Mileth.
- This Shrine... To which deity was this one built?
Before Flynne could answer, Elise was inside the small temple. She had found her Craft, her way.
- Flyn, I will be a Priestess of Glioca. This is my destiny!
Flynne, knowing Elise had made the right choice, simply smiled.
- This is what I was born to do! Serve the Goddess and share all my love with those in need. Tell me, sister, how can I become a Priestess of Glioca?
A long explanation about the Temple of Circles took place, everything that happened inside. Then the period of Guidance, Mentoring, all she had to learn and do. As Flynne spoke, a person Elise could never forget came into the Shrine. It was Isabel.
- Lady Flynne! You are back, it is a pleasure to see you here. And you, milady, I believe we have already met...
Elise remembered Isabel coming out of the Crypt of Piet, with Philippe by her side, in his arms the body of Neil. For a moment it seemed she would break down in tears; instead, she smiled to the Priestess.
- Yes, good Priestess, in Piet. How are you?
After everything was explained, Isabel was honored to be chosen as Elise's Guide, and the three headed to the Temple. Elise's perseverance when crossing the Circles was unmatched. In no time she was a Priestess, and moments later the most devoted of Glioca's followers. Even Flynne was impressed, it was like Elise had already reached a great number of Insights even before the initiation had taken place.
- People don't disappear from ships like that!
- They probably left the ship back in Abel, Tearlach. Don't ye agree, Penelope?
- I don' know, dear, Elise would never abandon us like that...
- Doesn't matter! You two please stay here, in case she shows up. I'm getting the next ship back to Abel!
And there went Tearlach Norven back to Abel...
"A terrible time to disappear, Elise, a terrible time!", Tearlach continuously said to himself. "This is the busiest hour in Abel, half the criminals in Temuair are on the loose here, nearly no one's friendly to strangers here, 'tis just plain hell!" He looked in every shop he could, until night covered the city with its dark cloak, leaving him no choice but go to the nearest inn, hoping his wife would have the same idea... if she was there - and still alive - at all. His hopes diminished when the innkeeper said no woman of that description had been there that night.
As the first rays of the sun appeared in the East, Tearlach ran down the stairs, dropped some money in the front counter and left the inn without looking behind. He went through other shops in Abel, asking if anyone had seen Elise, but got only negative answers. When he believed to have searched the whole city, he decided to move on and search the Shrine nearby, then whatever small village or other cities could exist in the region.
Not long after leaving Abel, Tearlach arrived in Mileth, and entered Glioca's Shrine. Finally someone had seen her! As he stepped down the stairs to keep looking, he saw his wife and her sister.
- Elise! Flynne! Where've you been, what happened, why did you leave the ship... what clothes are those!?
- Proper clothes for a Priestess, Tearlach. - Elise seemed somewhat unconcerned.
- A... Priestess!?
- My sister Elise is an Aisling, Tearlach. - Flynne completed the explanation. - The most faithful Priestess of Glioca I have ever seen.
- Aisling!? Glioca!?
- Yes, Tearlach, I am now a Priestess of Glioca. - With a smile, Elise concluded.
- But... you're my wife! And abandoned me in that ship!
- Tearlach, the love of Elise belongs to no one now. The ties between you died with Neil. His death came to show Elise her real destiny. She is to share her love with all those who need it. That is the job of a Priestess. There is nothing you can do.
- Tearlach, I once loved you, and I still do, but in another way. Please understand, it's my fate. Too many people need me, I can't remain silent, passive to all the suffering, belonging to a single person.
Tearlach remained silent. When he noticed his mouth was opened, closed it, but still remained silent. What could have caused that? Maybe she was angry with all the flirting he had been doing with her sister? Or was it a period of madness caused by the death of Neil? Nothing made sense anymore, his life was falling apart before his eyes... again! First Neil, now Elise, that could not be, it could not be!!
- Tearlach, wait!
Running into the town, Tearlach had no trouble finding his way to the Crypt, things had not changed much since he left the city. And those which had changed, he had already heard about in detail. So once inside, he took the second stairway leading down.
- Summon the one named Tearlach to the Pit of Sgath! - he screamed, and the next second was surrounded by four stone walls with no way out. A terrible being started to take form in front of him.
- Destiny, she says. Mine is traced.
When Elise and Flynne arrived, they found the keeper trying to smile, his teeth in no better state than the rest of the body, decomposition taking over the flesh. Slowly and with difficult, he pronounced a sentence, "Another one reaches master Sgrios." There was nothing more to be done there.
Elise had no idea about what to do. The keeper said
Tearlach was dead, there was no reason not to believe it. Again she thought
it was her fault. Her son, and now her husband. Aisling? No, before anything
she was a woman, and a woman that could not take such heavy losses. With
a scream, she threw herself against the wall, trying to open it with her
own hands - maybe Tearlach was still alive inside, and she could save him.
But Flynne prevented her from going further.
- Lis, if this room is opened, the Hunger will be free, it will be death for the whole Temuair.
- But I must save him! I must! 'Twas my fault!
- Lis, stop that! It was not your fault! Destiny knows what has to be, nothing happens by chance. There is nothing more you can do, let us leave this place.
- No, I can't leave him here...
The new Priestess fell on her knees, close to the wall she was trying to open. Flynne heard footsteps coming from the door. "Too late.", she thought. A group of Guards entered the room.
- Summoning the Dark Hunger is a crime! Come with us, now.
Noticing her sister was crying helplessly, Flynne stood in front of her, with her arms open, ready for combat.
- It was not us, he committed suicide.
- You can't fool me, Wizard! You're both coming with us, or we'll summon the Hunger against you! - The Guard Captain turned to his men. - Take them, they can do nothing against us in here, their magic won't work.
"Magic?", Flynne thought. One Guard approached her, only to be thrown back against the group.
- What in Chadul's realm is that!?
- This, my dear Captain, is a High Kick. And this technique here is called Double Punch. - Saying that, Flynne proceeded to knock down another Guard.
- Those're the skills of a Monk! How can you...!?
- Balanced diet and regular exercises. - The Master Monkess, even in her Clothes of Wizardry, had time to kick another Guard into dreamland before the Captain realized he would get nowhere unless the whole group attacked together. Flynne fought bravely, but was no match to the other four Guards in the group. Elise just continued to cry, despite the whole battle...
- I never expected this from you, Flynne Livanne.
Flynne slowly opened her eyes, and recognized the surroundings. She was in the Hall of Mileth. The floor of the Hall of Mileth, to be specific. Her first action was trying to stand up, but she found out she was chained. Looking at the table, she saw her sister still helplessly crying - she did not even need chains. Standing beside her was Herbert, Burgess of Mileth.
- Murdered your brother-in-law... with the aid of your sister - his wife. What led you to this?
- We murdered no one, Herbert! He killed himself, he summoned the Hunger.
- I see. I am not saying you are lying, Flynne, but your story is a little hard to believe. Why would anyone want to face the ultimate punishment? That makes no sense at all.
- If he had a dagger he would bury it in his chest at that moment. Sgath was only the first way he found to put an end to his life.
- "At that moment", you said. Which moment?
- The moment he learned his wife had become an Aisling, a Priestess of Glioca, and did not love him like before.
There was a moment of silence. Then Herbert continued.
- It is up to me to judge you, Flynne, you know that. But I will not judge you until I have heard all the people involved. The Guards that brought you here already gave me their report. I still must hear your sister's version. So, until she speaks, you will have to remain chained. I am sorry, but this is the law.
- Which law is this that I never heard of?
- Herbert's new law. I only never expected you to be the first victim of my crime reducing measures.
- Wait. There is someone who can speak in our behalf. A couple, Baron and Baroness Arcail. They are probably in Undine now, we were traveling together. Please bring them here.
- Very well, Flynne, since it is you who is asking, I will have them looked for.
Herbert left the room, leaving two Guards watching the door. Some laws he had been writing while she was gone! But there was not much to be done, all she could do was waiting for Elise to return to her mind, or Verinis and Penelope to arrive from Undine. Until then, Flynne could go no further than the two steps the chains allowed her.
Suddenly Elise stood up and dried her tears, and requested to see the Burgess. She then knelt by her sister's side.
- Flyn, what happened to you...? I am sorry this came to pass...
- No need to be sorry, Lis, it will be alright.
- I know it will, Flyn, Glioca told me.
- Aye, Glioca. She answered my prayers, my tears; she spoke to me. She said Tearlach's death was not my fault, but I was wrong to think I could share my love with the whole world and never give it all to a single person. His death was to warn me about that. I knew I could not love him anymore, but he taught me a lesson I needed to learn.
- That you can give all your love to a single person...
Flynne smiled, despite the chains and pain. Elise gently touched her sister's cheek with the back of her hand.
- Yes, Flyn. ...Am I normal?
- Ask Devlin. The answer will fit me too...
Flynne hugged Elise. They needed no more words at the moment.
- This is a beautiful scene, but I will have to interrupt you. - Herbert was back a few minutes later, with all his loveliness. - Baron Verinis and Baroness Penelope Arcail were already here in Mileth. They did not have much to add to my opinion, though. But the Apostle from Glioca's Shrine overheard our little conversation, and then told me what she saw, including the fact that you took several seconds to reach him in the Crypt, which would be enough time for him to summon the Hunger on himself. Plus, one thing those Guards forgot to mention, is that the keeper only remembered one Dark Hunger being released, thus proving it have been done by a single person. Your little fight against the Guards I will overlook, say they did not act properly and you only fought to defend yourself and your sister.
- You are one odd person, Herbert. I never know if I can consider you a friend or foe.
- Consider me neutral.
- Neutral? Hardly.
The two sisters left the Hall of Mileth, headed for Riona's Inn. Anything they had to do that day would have to wait until the next morning, as that evening the Glade saw Isabel celebrating a most controversial union...
Etienne Suarven Lorneau