Snow flowed over her perfect form as she watched the armies of Sanguinar march into the unprepared realm of Caladwen.
The storm was nearly as savage a blow as the world had ever known. It covered the land in a white blanket of frozen water, and the wind obscured her vision of the crater below except during isolated periods without a gust. The storm had raged for hours already, and below her, the battle for the city looked like it was nearing its inevitable conclusion. The rage of winter would continue long after the time for conquest had ended and the time for rape and pillage, and plunder had begun — a memorial to the elven people, or perhaps a sign of the long winter of misery they were in for.
Alissandra did not believe in symbolism.
Her black wings wrapped her slender form, warding away the cruel winds from her leather clad form. Her hair was tied back against her head in a severe braid that the erinyes would normally not be caught dead in, but long, flowing hair was not exactly appropriate to a blowing windstorm, and a lady had to make allowances. A sword rested on her hip, its pommel bearing the crest of Sanguinar. Aion’s sword, hers by right of conquest.
Alissandra could fight well enough but she was no warrior, no great general. She couldn’t stem the tide of Sanguinar’s conquest, and probably would not have cared enough to save the elven people even if she could have. Her goal was much more personal. Her vengeance upon Aion had made him beg for death before she allowed it, draining him dry of every speck of life energy he had possessed… but it was nowhere near enough, her need for retribution nowhere near satisfied.
In draining Aion dry, the erinyes had learned of the source of the strange taste in his energy. He was the son of a god, and his brother must be as well.
She wanted Lahk more than dead. She wanted him to suffer, and not merely physically.
Oh, she fully planned to have the arrogant priest at her mercy, dutifully kneeling before the fallen angel as he begged her for leniency that would not come before she consumed everything that he was… but that would not be enough to slake the fires of her rage. No, she wanted him to truly suffer. She wanted his church to burn around him. She wanted the faith everyone had in him to evaporate. She wanted him to no longer be feared, no longer be respected, no longer even be held in contempt. She wanted his life’s works to be unmade, thread by thread until she had unwoven his entire existence within the Veil, and undone every single thing he had wrought, or had been wrought in his name.
But her rage was under control. It burned cold.
She could be patient.
Alissandra’s hand rested on the pommel of her sword.
But not forever.
Shevarn stood out on the balcony of his tower, weeping silently.
He should never have listened to her. He should have forced the stupid elf to come back with him, and when that had failed he should have thrown himself into her struggle, going with her regardless of the sacrifice to his own personal morals. His morals were not worth her life.
He had watched Alassiel die, had seen her burn through the crystal ball he had recovered from the tower that had become Danith’s grave. His heart had burned as she fell in battle, and was taken one final time by the animal. He had watched her burn and die.
The Archmage felt a stirring in his heart his discipline usually banished, but not this time.
A surge of fury. A lust for retribution. He felt the stirrings of Kardas’ power in his soul, begging to be let free.
Instead he stood in the cold air and turned his face to the heavens, night sky masked by the clouds above preparing for a blizzard. Facing the open sky, he spoke into the night.
“Please forgive her for Danith, and whomever else she may have hurt. Any ill deeds she committed can be laid at Lahk’s feet.” he spoke quietly, his voice being swallowed instantly by the wind. “I knew her heart well, and it was a good one. Even if she wasn’t sure who she was anymore, I never had any doubts.” His voice broke, and he swallowed. “A hero. A good person. Let her rest in peace.”
And he began to sing, hoping his voice would enter Caer’s eternal song and bring his attention to the elf who deserved his mercy more than any other.
He sang, lifting his voice louder and higher as he went, wishing salvation for the poor elf girl who had suffered so much and singing her to her rest, the lyrics tumbling from his mouth without conscious thought as Caer’s song flowed through him in a tribute to the fallen.
Shevarn sang the last with a choking gasp, ending the song before tears stole his breath from him. “Goodbye Lissa…” he muttered beneath his breath. “Rest well.”
A strong arm landed on the wizards old shoulder, and Dorn pulled him into an embrace. They stood there silently for long seconds until Dorn whispered, “I know, Master. I wish I’d gone with her too.”
Alassiel opened her eyes.
She didn’t expect that, actually. It came as something of a surprise.
Her entire body ached, like someone had beat her with a meat tenderizer before slicing her into bite sized pieces.
Sadly, that part did not come as a surprise.
What did come as a surprise was that she was warm. Not hot, not burning, but actually, comfortably warm. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt that way. Weeks ago, before she had embarked on her quest to slay Lahk. She was also clean, itself almost an alien sensation…
She twisted her body, taken by the strange feeling that she had been here before. She half expected to see Shevarn behind her, slowly stirring a pot of soup. Instead her gaze caught the sky.
It was a swirling maelstrom of energy, colors of a thousand hues warring across the sky in a desperate bid for power over one another. It was the savage sky of the untamed lands, the realms beyond the protection of the Veil. The chaotic battlefield of light was almost maddening in its hypnotic power, and the elf had to force herself to look away.
When she did, she realized that she was naked, and that the source of her warmth was of another body pressed against hers — a woman’s body, her hair shaved completely from her head. She wanted to recoil away from the touch of flesh on her own, but she hurt too badly, and moving seemed like a cruel effort to ask of her sore muscles. Alassiel was too tired to do anything but put her head back down and bear the sensation of the flesh pressed against hers.
Once she got over her initial panic, she had to admit it was… pleasant. She had lost track of how long it had been since another had actually touched her without intent to hurt. Shevarn and Dorn had not once touched the elf during her stay with them, and she hadn’t permitted it. Perhaps Danith was the last, but even he had wanted to take something from the vulnerable elf, so even if he hadn’t intended to hurt her the touch had hardly been comforting.
In all likelihood she hadn’t been touched with kindness since before she had fought in Daggerport, years ago — an agonizingly long time.
She finally realized how much she’d missed it.
Her wracking sobs woke the woman sleeping beside her, and their naked flesh brushed as she turned to face the weeping Alassiel. The woman’s face was familiar, but she couldn’t place it through her tear drenched eyes and it hardly seemed important at the moment. The woman reached up and kissed the tears from Alassiel’s face, her lips soft as they passed over the scars that marred her tattoos… and with a start, she realized the bald elf had her own network of druidic sigils across her face. She was an elf as well, Alassiel saw with a start, and with the delicate kindness of a lover she continued cleaning her fellow elf up, comforting her until the tears stopped falling.
A million questions fought for release, but in the end the only thing that escaped was a croaked “Where?”
“Where are we?” the other elf asked, smiling. When Alassiel nodded, she continued, “Inside Blackwand. Here to be tormented forever, consumed by the evil of that dark blade to further empower it.” As she spoke, Alassiel finally saw that the elf was injured. She was bruised and covered with welts, and her bottom lip was swollen painfully.
Her voice cracked, but Alassiel managed to speak. “You sound surprisingly happy, given that fact.” her voice was dry and weak, but at least it was no longer interrupted by sobs.
The other elf smiled wider, some teeth actually showing between her bruised lips. “I can’t help it. There’s something I’ve been waiting to tell you, Archdruid.”
Alassiel’s eyes widened as she finally recognized the woman before her, a face from another lifetime it seemed.
“I still want to be a fool like you, Lissa.”
To be continued in Book II: Spectre