Chapter Eight: Memorium

It seemed that, after nearly five months of constant abuse, Cerec had finally grown tired of the pair of elves and moved on to fresh victims. After all, who knew what new women Lahk had murdered by now?

That didn’t, of course, mean that either of them got a break. In the two weeks since her victory in the arena, it seemed clear that Cerec had lifted whatever restriction prevented them from being attacked by the male prisoners. They were fair game now, and a steady stream of demons and men and dwarves and even other elves came in to sample the prisoners several times a day.

Or rather, they came to rape Liriel anyway. Alassiel was too busy dying.

Despite the pale haired elf’s best efforts, an infection had taken hold of the former Archdruid. Most of the time that the younger elf was being dicked by vile prisoners, Alassiel instead spent lying on the ground, moaning while she was burning up from the inside. The elf sweat more and more as the sickness intensified, melting her until the cold air felt like ice on her exposed skin. She couldn’t find the strength to turn her head and watch Liriel, to give the brave elf the small solace of her presence.

At least no one wanted to touch her.

After the rapist prisoners left, Liriel would always crawl back over to her mentor and bath her, wiping away her sweat while she provided the sick elf the only heat she could with her own body. Alassiel wanted to tell her to see to herself, that she needed the care more than the red haired elf did, but she couldn’t choke out the words. As the fever deepened with each passing day, she reflected that Cerec had found a new way to torment her after all.

Then the fever dreams began, and to her horror Alassiel learned that just because the avatar’s had lost interest in her didn’t mean that there weren’t more memories for her to relive… even worse ones. Trembling in the fever’s fiery grip, Alassiel was taught that she had not even begun to suffer yet.

25 years ago, Royal Army Camp, Beginning of Winter
During the War of Ascension

Before she was even fully awake she could smell him. The scent of cinnamon spice, of sweat, of the earth. He smelled like one of the groves of Caladwen.

She felt him next, the warmth of his body pressed against her. The winter was cold, but she was not. Their bodies fit together perfectly, his arm wrapping around the elf to pull her against him. Lissa couldn’t remember the last time she had felt so comfortable, even on the meager comfort of a simple bedroll. She heard his soft breathing as his chest made her head rise and fall with it, the steady sound comforting.

When she finally forced her groggy eyes to open she saw his muscular chest stretch out before her, her form wrapped around his. Lissa groaned softly in contentment and ground her face deeper into Liam’s chest, taking simple pleasure in his company.

She was pressed up against his flank as he lay on his back, her head pillowed on his chest. Her long red hair veiled her sight, his flesh warm beneath her lips. A single strong arm was wrapped around her shoulder, holding the elf against him while her leg was thrown over his thigh. He was sleeping heavily still, occasionally letting out a tiny snore beneath her. She was more content than she had been since leaving Caladwen years ago. It wasn’t that she had found a lover she respected for the first time in decades, either — rather, it was more that she began to see that some good could come out of this awful war. Liam was more to her than a man… he was a partner in every sense of the word. Not since her apprenticeship under Sirae had the druid had such a close friend, such a confidant.

Lissa closed her eyes in contentment for a moment, stretching her sore body languidly. Liam had been especially… eager last night. She struggled to think of the proper way to describe their activities, and found both the common and elven languages insufficient to describing such hungry, joyous, and completely unrestrained passion. Privacy enough for such an activity was hard to come by in the middle of an army camp, but apparently being a prince had its advantages.

The druid licked her lips. It certainly did.

There had been food discretely left for them at some point in the night. Lissa suspected it had been laced with a tiny amount of Astaria, which would explain the intensity of the evening as well as her exhausted sleep afterward. Or perhaps it had simply been too long since the last time they had been able to get some privacy.

That privacy was, of course, an illusion. The prince of the realm couldn’t be left too unguarded, even in the middle of his own army and in the presence of his lover. There were half a dozen guards posted around the tent at a distance obviously meant to be discreet, but they couldn’t have helped but overhear everything… Lissa had not been very restrained last night. That didn’t seem as important as it would have even a month or two earlier. There was nothing earth-shattering about others knowing that she and Liam enjoyed one another’s company, and the entire time she had been coming here, no one but Elide had shown her the slightest sign of disrespect or been upset with her position as the prince’s lover — or, as the general called it, the prince’s whore. Whether they had great personal respect for Liam’s choices, or in her position as the hero of Accida Ridge, no soldier in the army showed her less than an officer’s deference.

She winced a little at the thought. Liam had been right, as he so often was. The title chaffed… but for the most part, she had learned to bear it gracefully. The soldiers fought better with a hero beside them, and the better they fought the fewer of them died. They felt they could not lose with Lissa fighting beside them, and if there was a single thing the druid knew about war it was that expectation of victory bred victory. So she would accept the title with dignity, although her heart may never grow used to the burden.

Beneath her, Liam began to stir and Lissa gladly returned her attention to the warm, relaxed presence beside her as he woke. “Good morning, love…” Liam drawled sleepily, his arm pulling her into a tighter embrace while his other hand rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

Lissa blushed, heart speeding just the tiniest bit. Love…

“Morning yourself,” she said with a smile.

25 years ago, Maithum Falls, Late Winter
2 weeks before the end of the War of Ascension

“Presenting, Princess Lissa Tel’orine of Silas.”

Applause rose up, and the druid forced a fake smile onto her face as she blushed beneath the gown she wore. It was a ridiculous thing. Completely impractical, and if she had to run it would tear in a thousand places… not that she would ever be able to run in these ridiculous torture devices humans called shoes.

Lissa looked down at the heel appraisingly. Perhaps it could serve as a weapon if she were suddenly attacked. It could happen, there was a war on after all. The druid looked around the ridiculous room and decided that, unfortunately, it was unlikely that a fortunately timed assassination attempt would occur during her presentation.

Which was a shame really, but what’s a girl to do?

‘Stand there and take the honorary adoption,’ she reminded herself dutifully as she fell to one knee, no doubt appearing ridiculous, allowing the king to place his sword upon her shoulder. ‘It will make him happy.’

This entire thing was ridiculous.

But when she felt the warmth of Liam’s hands on her shoulders, holding her from behind, it suddenly didn’t matter to her how silly it was, and a smile that had nothing to do with propriety graced her face.

As soon as the king removed the sword from her shoulders the gathered crowd began to cheer; the room filling with raucous appreciation of the new princess of the realm.

She turned to Liam, her smile huge and genuine as the crowd roared. “I don’t deserve this, you know.”

Liam had to practically yell to be heard over the cheering room, even from a few steps away. “I know you don’t think you do, love, but strangely enough my parents think that saving the entire royal army from destruction makes you special.” He cocked his head before adding as an afterthought, “Oh, and you saved my life. They probably care about that, too.” He smiled back at her to let her know it was a joke, although she already knew that. It seemed she knew everything about him.

“Does this make me your sister?”

He squeezed her shoulder. “Only technically.”


Liam laughed, the priest’s smile becoming a lecherous smirk as his eyes twinkled. “Just wait until we’re done here, and I’ll how you show technical it really is.”

They were both blushing like children as they smiled at each other, oblivious to the rest of room.

25 years ago, Royal Army Camp, Beginning of Winter
During the War of Ascension

As a general rule, Lissa didn’t take the time to really bathe. She didn’t have the time — rather, the druid just stood in a tub and used her magic to swirl the water around her, stripping the grime and dirt of the road and the battlefield as quickly as possible. It was quick, efficient, and got her back on to more important tasks far more quickly.

After today, though… Lissa was sure that was going to change.

She was filthy after the latest fight, covered in demon ash and the soaked mud of the battlefield. She knelt in a tub of warm water, by a blazing fire. A basin of steaming water sat upon the makeshift hearth, and the air was warm on her skin despite her nakedness, and the frigid temperatures outside the tent.

Lissa tried to tell herself that this was mostly because of the fire and not Liam’s hands on her bare flesh, but she was only marginally successful.

She faced the flames while the prince repeatedly dipped a cloth into the scalding water and squeezed it out before sliding it over her skin, stripping away the filth one swipe of the hot cloth at a time. She shivered as the cloth slid over her shoulder and down the length of one arm. Her eyes were closed in sheer, simple pleasure. The light of the fire made lovely, shadows dancing along her naked form, flicking over her back and limbs until her waist vanished beneath the water.

Liam loved how her skin shimmered golden in the firelight for a second after the wet cloth glided over it, leaving tiny wisps of steam in its path. The druid groaned under his touch as her tattoos were revealed from beneath the grime, adding more beauty to the scene for the prince. He smiled as he dipped the cloth again and washed her other shoulder, taking as much enjoyment in the act as she obviously did.

Slowly, with infinite patience, he poured scalding water into a bucket of unheated water until it was merely comfortably warm, then gently poured it over Lissa’s head, his hands raking through her long, scarlet hair as he washed the dirt from it, the red mane shining brightly in the firelight. She was moaning almost constantly now, and he smiled at her pleasure.

When at last the druid was clean, she stepped from the tub and stood before him, dripping wet, naked and unashamed.

“My turn?” Liam asked, his voice hoarse.

Lissa slowly shook her head, her hands stripping off his shirt. “Don’t want to wait,” she purred.

“You’ll get all dirty again…” he said, the strongest objection he could muster to the idea.

Lissa looked at the priest, then to the tub. Then she looked back to Liam and smiled. “That’s the idea.”

Prince Liam had no good answer to that, but after a few more seconds he didn’t desire one, either.

25 years ago, Maithum Falls, Late Winter
Three days before the end of the War of Ascension

Lissa liked it on top of the palace. The falling snow was beautiful, and it gave her room to think. Somehow, sitting atop the castle and staring down over the largest town in the realm helped her think — paradoxically, feeling very small against the vast expanse of Maithum Falls helped her focus on her own life rather than the larger picture of the war and the realm, of Caladwen and gods and destinies.

It gave her a chance to think about herself without the rest of that getting in the way… everything else but Liam, that is.

She could not get the priest out of her mind.

At first what they had was built on companionship. Even surrounded by allies, war was an inherently lonely place, and she had taken great comfort in finding a kindred soul to spend the time with. Afterward, perhaps it was lust. Liam was a fine specimen to be sure, and it had been many years since she had last known a touch other than her own. Dependence may have followed, as Lissa relied upon the priest to teach her, to escape from elide and even to guide her through her coronation in Maithum Falls and the request for the remainder of the royal guard, now ready to march to war the next day.

But what did she feel about him now? All of that seemed insufficient to describe it.

There was no ambiguity in what Liam felt for her. He made it clear to the elf that he loved her, had made it perfectly obvious months ago.

Is that what she felt as well?

Lissa’s heart beat with excitement at the thought.

That was answer enough for her. She smiled.

Then she heard a scream in the castle beneath her.

25 years ago, Royal Army Camp, Middle of Winter
During the War of Ascension

She had to end this.

It was mad. There was a war going on. Lissa couldn’t afford a distraction like the Prince, couldn’t afford to worry about him in battle… and he certainly couldn’t afford to worry about her.

Besides, either of them could die any day. Did trying to build a relationship make any sense at all in that context? One day either of them could wake up, only to remember that the other had fallen in battle the day before, or died beneath an assassin’s blade, or… or…

And even if nothing tragic befell Liam, and he lived the rest of his natural life… so would she. Long after the human had turned to dust, Lissa would still be living. Alive and alone.

She wondered how Sirae handled it, having lived for so many thousands of years, long past the lifespan of any other elf the druid had ever heard of. She resolved to ask her.

Lissa drew her own sword across her left palm, allowing blood to flow as she spun. The druid spun immediately, twirling to the side of a charge down the hallway and slapping her bloody palm against the demon’s back and leaving a crimson streak. She didn’t have time to finish with him, though, for a soldier in black armor was pressing down on her. Steel rang three time in the first second as Lissa desperately parried the skilled blows. This high up, removed from the actual stones of the earth, eyrn eregdos had difficulty energizing her, drawing on the power that enabled her magic.

She would have to use what she had carefully.

As the soldier stepped forward once more Lissa turned the stone beneath his leading foot to mud the instant he had all of his weight on the extended limb. He stumbled, the skilled fighter recovering his balance quickly… but not quickly enough to save him, for the druid had counted on him to stagger. Her wounded palm got inside the reach of his sword arm and pinned the limb high while she drove her own sword into his gut, twisting it before pulling it from him and turning to face the demon that was no doubt returning for her.

The elf nearly gagged at the first good sight of the horrid thing coming back at her. Pale white skin, bloated and overloaded with oozing liquids, hung in loose flaps along the thing’s torso, and many-legged parasites clung to its hide. It was only three feet tall but it sported long and obviously sharp claws and nasty teeth. Lissa concentrated on her blood smeared on its back, magic energizing the fluid and forming a binding on the demon. He went stiff and she cut it in half with her sword. The destroyed fiend, rather than lie down dead, exploded into a puff of acidic fumes that burned at the druid’s skin and lungs and made her retch.

More demons of the same kind were rushing down the hallway towards her. She flung her palm forward, sending forth a thin line of blood droplets across the floor of the hallway. She spent another tiny piece of her limited energy to energize the line into a barrier, and quickly the horde of demon flesh was pressed up against it: Hungry for her blood, but incapable of crossing the sanguine line. Lissa spun and ran down another hallway. She would have to find another way through.

Sanguinar was here, in the palace.

As Lissa fought her way through the abattoir the palace had become, she saw evidence of Blackwand’s passage — corpses still burning with blue flame, flickering as they were devoured by the ravenous sword. With the royal army prepared to march, the palace was only defended lightly — and it was no match for the demons he had brought. Bodies in the icons of the palace guard lay thick in the halls, burning or bleeding to death, and every step of the druid’s feet kicked more ashes into the air.

When a powerful arm struck the elf from behind, she felt her unarmored shoulder crumple beneath the blow, bones cracking. Lissa threw herself forward on sheer instinct, reducing the force of the blow before it could shatter the bones rather than merely break then, completely crippling her left side. Her right shoulder hit the ground as she rolled forward, the jolt of impacting sending tremors of agony down her entire body. She threw herself out of the demon’s reach and came back to her feet, magic working to deaden the nerves in her left side even if she could not repair the damage with her limited supply of power.

The beast was enormous behind her, filling the hallway with its chitinous bulk. Huge hands, more like crab claws, filled the air as he rushed the elf. The twelve-foot tall demon, all muscle and horrible pincers, roared in outrage as it closed the gap between them with a pair of long strides. In came a monstrous claw that could easily snap the woman in half, setting into place about Lissa’s slender, vulnerable waist. In one fluid motion, the druid cried out fell backwards, strengthening herself as she did and snapping her blade upward with all the power she possessed. The well-crafted blade hit the inside edge of the pincer and kept on going, slicing right through.

The demon howled, the severed claw crumbling to dust as it fell away. The great arm snapped across the hallway, and the remaining side of the pincer struck Lissa in her wounded side and knocked her to the ground. Pain completely filled her senses, her broken shoulder straining under the blow, but Lissa made herself focus. Even now in stalked the demon, lifting one of his clawed feet to squash the elf beneath him. She stabbed straight up, the blade’s razor edge taking a toe from the huge foot and making the fiend reconsider the wisdom of that maneuver, howling in rage. The demon stepped back and Lissa forced herself back to her feet even as the demon launched magic at her.

The ancient demon loved to toy with mortals, to torment them and finally to tear them apart slowly, limb by limb. This one was too formidable for such tactics, the wounded creature decided, and so he began to speak in the demonic tongue, tracing a brief series of sigils in the air as he called upon his magical heritage. As Lissa backed away to catch her breath, a wave of purple light lashed out from the demon’s form and slammed into her, the power sinking instantly beneath her skin. This spell was meant to be a disabling one, and the druid felt her senses failing and her limbs stiffening, urging her to hold still.

It was a binding of sorts, the same kind of binding that she had placed on the earlier demon. Frantically she fought the compulsion. Her sword dropped from her limp fingers and she fell to a single knee under the effort. Desperatly, she reached into what was left of her power and threw it all back at the demon, using her own dripping blood as a focus to try and turn the binding back on its caster. Two mighty wills warred against each other in the battle torn corridor… and it was the demon’s will that shattered first.

Screaming in impotent rage he crumbled to dust, banished back beyond the veil by the spell’s power. Lissa almost lay back down to the ground herself. She felt so tired…

She rose to her feet, gripping her sword once again. Sanguinar was here, no doubt seeking vengeance for the royal intervention in the war… and that meant he would never leave while Liam still drew breath.

25 years ago, Royal Army Camp, Middle of Winter
During the War of Ascension

“Of course you should end it,” Elide said, disgust evident in her tone as though even needing to speak the words had dirtied her. “He’s a human.”

Lissa wished she could find a way to make the noirette elf see how upset that attitude made her. Her hatred of humans was utterly irrational, especially considering how many of them had fought and died alongside her over the last five months.

“The goddess doesn’t think as you do…” Lissa said quietly.

“The goddess is bli-” Elide cut herself off, breathing hard several times as she visibly controlled her temper. “The goddess is wrong. It will be good when this war is finally over and she can return home to Caladwen and away from… this place.” Elide started to walk away, but stopped and glanced back at the druid over her shoulder. “He is a human, and you are an elf. He is going to die.” She turned back and resumed walking. “Save yourself the pain.”

Elide’s words hurt, but they couldn’t blot out what Sirae had said to her Lissa had come into camp this morning and asked the goddess if she ever worried about how much longer she had lived than any of those who had loved her, if she ever wished that she hadn’t loved them. Sirae, cradling her child, had just looked at Lissa with a mysterious smile, her gold eyes shining.

“Never stopped me.”


The door had flown from its hinges.

“No, no, no…”

The blue flames of Blackwand still filled the room when the druid entered. Her footsteps kicked up ash, the thick flakes floating through the burning air.

Liam!” she screamed at the top of her lungs, scalding her lungs in the heat.

The room was empty save for the flames and the ashes. A mountain of burned dust, with a silver icon of Caer resting on top of it.

“No, no no!” Lissa knelt down, ignoring the devastating heat as she grabbed at the scales that formed Caer’s sigil. The silver was hot as a brand, and the icon seared itself into the skin of her palm, but she did not drop it.

Lissa had never cried so hard.

She sat there for hours, until the flames had completely burned out and the room had begun to cool. At first the elf had irrationally thought to collect all of ashes, in some belief that if she put them back together she could heal him. She had eventually given up, screaming herself hoarse as she cradled Liam’s remains, trying to embrace them.

Liam was dead.

The light of the moon poured in through the window, casting a pale light on the ravaged wreck of a room, a room filled with the carvings of the six gods and the golden crest of Silas. A room filled with ashen dust that coated every surface, drifting down through the air to land in her hands as she helplessly grasped at them. A room filled with broken furniture, broken tiles, broken dreams and a broken heart.

It might even contain a broken druid.

“What now!” she shouted, her voice weak through her raw throat. She painfully ripped the silver pendant from her burned flesh and hurled it across the room. “What now!”

‘I never told him.’ The thought came unbidden, and instantly banished her fury, replacing it again with sorrow.

On unsteady feet Lissa rose and walked to the window, staring out over the waterfalls below, the snow thick in the air. She opened the glass over the opening, feeling the cold air and relishing it. The room shouldn’t be warm. Lissa would never be warm again.

The slightest breeze blew through the room and began to scatter the ashes, carrying them with it to parts of the palace unknown. Low and mournful, Lissa began to sing into the wind, the wordless, haunting melody echoing for many minutes until she felt when her song joined with Caer’s own, sung to the tune of the whistling wind.

“On a long road,
With miles to go,
It’s winding and cold,
And it’s covered with snow.
I ask you what we all want to know…
Where are we going from here?

The lines on my face,
The lines on my hand,
Lead to a future I don’t understand
Some things don’t go as they’re planned
Where are we going from here?

Tracing the trails through the mirrors of time,
Spinning in circles with riddles and rhyme
We lose our way,
trying to find,
searching to find where’s our home…”

Lissa walked over to where the silver icon rested on the ground, where she had thrown it in grief and rage. She picked it up, cradling the still-warm metal in her hands, pressing it against her chest.

“As the day dies
Tears in our eyes
There’s too few hellos and too many goodbyes
Silence answers our cries…
So where are we going from here?”

The druid held her hand out of the window, watching as the falling flakes of snow drifted around her pale limb.

“We’re all on this road,
miles to go,
Braving new pathways into the unknown…
But who do we ask
When Caer alone knows,
Where are we going from here?”

She let the holy symbol drop, watching as the silver crest vanished into the multitude of falling bright spots against the dark night, dropping down towards the great falls far below.

“Tracing the trails through the mirrors of time,
Spinning in circles with riddles and rhyme
We lose our way, trying to find, trying t-”

Lissa had so much more to say, but her voice gave out then. She would have to trust Caer to know the rest, and take the kind prince to the kind of fate he deserved.

‘I never told him.’

Before she was even fully awake she could smell him. The scent of cinnamon spice, of sweat, of the earth. He smelled like one of the groves of Caladwen.

‘No, no, no…’

She felt him next, the warmth of his body pressed against her. The air was cold, but he was not. Their bodies fit together perfectly, his arm wrapping around the elf to pull her against him.

‘No, not this. Goddess, not this.’

Alassiel couldn’t remember the last time she had felt so comfortable, especially on the meager comfort of the rocky ground. She heard his soft breathing as his chest made her head rise and fall with it, the steady sound comforting.

‘If there is any mercy in this world, please let me wake up now. Don’t let Cerec take this from me too…’

But Alassiel was hesitantly beginning to realize that she was not sleeping. Her eyes flew open and she saw his muscular chest stretch out before her, her form wrapped around his. Liriel was curled up only a step away, close enough that she could feel her apprentice’s body heat. Alassiel groaned softly in confusion and ground her face deeper into Liam’s chest, hoping against hope that he would not disappear the way he had in thousands of nights of dreams over the last quarter century.

She was pressed up against his side as he lay on his back, her head pillowed on his chest. Her long red hair veiled her sight, his flesh warm beneath her lips. A single strong arm was wrapped around her shoulder, holding the elf against him while her leg was thrown over his thigh. He was sleeping heavily still, occasionally letting out a tiny snore beneath her.

A jolt ran through her as realization dawned. Blackwand.

Enormous tears ran down her face, and she wept silently into her lover’s chest, pressing her branded hand against him. This is what she had been waiting for. This was the mistake that she and Liriel had patiently waited for the ancient sword to make. Somewhere deep in her soul, the crying elf knew that this was the fulcrum on which fate could shift. She closed her eyes, pressing herself harder into Liam as if he might disappear should she lose contact.

‘You never told him,’ she thought.

“I love you,” she said, almost silent in the cavernous quiet of Blackwand. “I love you… I’ve always loved you…”

One thought on “Chapter Eight: Memorium

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