Chapter 27: Weary
Trudging along the edge of the woods I waited for Aurora to catch up. The two of us had volunteered to go back and make sure no more of those creatures were about. There weren’t thankfully, if there would have been I don’t believe Aurora and myself would have had enough energy to defeat too many of them. Heading back through the trees in the direction of the cabin we walked in silence. I wanted to ask her a few questions about that bracelet and where she learned ice magic, but I didn’t have enough energy or voice left to. We were both tattered and bruised and in need of Healing, but better off then most of the others. I could feel the blood caked on my back and arm and I was beginning to dry and I was pretty sure, freeze to my skin. Aurora looked like she was in about the same state; she had blood covering her clothes and her bodice was practically done for. Looking up as we pushed a broken tree aside I spotted a hot spring. I felt tears well up in my eyes; it was such a wonderful sight. I heard a noise from Aurora that sounded like joy. She walked past me quickly and without any reservation began stripping off her clothes. Unable to help myself I did the same stripping off every layer of my clothing. Settling down into the smooth rocks I found one to sit on that wasn’t too slick. The hot spring came up to my chest, the perfect height. I pulled my hair up and wrapped the Fae Scarf around it before settling myself and looking over to Aurora.
She had pulled her hair up over the rock behind her and seemed quiet content in the steaming water. Opening her eyes she stared at me for a long moment before I realized what her violet eyes were focused on. My shoulder, where the inch wide scar broke my perfect tan flesh. The scar from the Darksword, it was barely two months old I realized.
“What is that from, it looks new?”
I smiled tiredly at her. “Yea, a couple of months ago when I received the Darksword…”
“That’s from the Darksword?”
I nodded, slightly distracted by the scar on her own shoulder; it had an odd bluish tint. “Yea. But it wasn’t the first time, so…”
Her eyes widened a bit, even with her lack of energy. “So you mentioned, I guess I thought you were joking.”
Finding myself laughing suddenly I bit my lip to make myself stop. “I wish I was.”
Motioning my head toward her I pointed out her own scar. “you’re really not one to talk of odd scars though.”
She glanced down at the blue tinted scar. “oh, that’s from an ice spear. Only good thing about it is it didn’t get infected.”
With a half smile I leaned back into the steaming hot spring. It was glorious. Though the small spring was tinted with our mingling blood and dirt it was a welcome reprieve from the cold ice. I closed my eyes wondering how everyone was doing. I hadn’t had much time to check before setting off to make sure no more of the shadow beasts were coming.
Ankou was weak, I knew that. He had used too much of his elemental magic, which drained him quickly. When we left he seemed like he was going to pass out at any moment. As for the others I had barely taken a glance at them before pulling Aurora off with me.
“If you’re worried we can head back. I don’t think we’re gonna find any more of those things.”
I looked up at Aurora who was holding her bodice just over the water. It was far from being repairable, in fact it looked to be barely enough material to cover her. I stood up, hardly modest in front of another female and wiped as much water off of my body as I could. Even with the heated steam rising from the water I already had large goose bumps covering my exposed flesh.
“I’ll give you one of mine till you can find another.”
She nodded and stepped out of the water as well, she shuddered, but wasn’t nearly as effected by the cold as I. With as much effort as we could muster, we headed back into town to report in and see how everyone was doing. Once back to the inn we found everyone in the main lobby, along with a few residents of the town. I almost blushed at the looks we were given. Aurora and I had less-than-respectable clothing on according to northern women. On top of that, they were tattered beyond repair, Aurora’s more so than mine, and she had much more to expose. But aside from the stares of the few women all the looks in the room seemed to be overwhelming praise. Sir Morgan stepped forward from the small crowd.
“Lord Ankou told us the Rift was closed, correct?” I nodded my head, half wanting to laugh at the title “Lord Ankou”.
“Then we will no longer be plagued by Taro’s demons.” It was a statement rather than a question. His hazy eyes seemed to soften with the burden lifted from his mind. “Thank you.”
He turned to the small group of villagers gathered around our own tattered Alliance. They seemed to be key members of the community. I spotted a smith, a tailor, a baker-he was given away by the flour covered apron, and a seamstress. The others I was unsure about, though I did see Seth sitting on a table in the back. “We will leave them to their own; they have had a hard evening.” He turned around to me again, his withered form still standing proud beneath the heavy robes.
“Before your departure, please stop by. Each of these people have offered their services to the Alliance and wish for you to all take parting gifts.”
I nodded, with as much of a smile as I could muster waiting until they all filed out, leaving us in the lobby alone. It was well past midnight and yet they were all still awake, bleeding and battered, looking at me expectantly. What was I supposed to say? This was our first real battle together as an ‘Alliance’ and they did wonderfully. The odds were well against us, and yet this rag-tag group had come out on top. A simple ‘good job’ or ‘well done’ hardly seemed appropriate. A thought hit me then, hard as a Centaur had just run me down; this was the first of many. We still had so many of these to close. I smiled as much as I could with that depressing thought in my mind. “You guys are better than I thought. This thing might work after all.”
I was answered with a few small smiles. Aurora had plopped, quite unceremoniously into one overstuffed chair beside the hearth not caring that she was still wearing the shredded bodice. Rsh was currently laying-not by choice- on the large couch being healed by Leah. Though he was a Light Elf, his healing abilities weren’t as pronounced as Leah’s. The healing ability was predominately a female trait. And as was so, Rsh lie still on the couch as Leah healed his broken collar bone. It looked like he had gotten slammed pretty hard into something. Driden sat on the cushioned chair across from him, waiting to be healed next. He was bleeding from a gash in his forehead and his left hand was nicely battered. He looked more physically exhausted than the rest of them, having used most of his energy on his Elemental magic I assumed. Alleria had already been healed and sat curled up on the end of the couch not taken up by Rsh. Leah looked the best out of the bunch. She would though, with her unmatched healing abilities. Though, I had no doubt, her next Cleansing would hurt like nakda. I saw Fall curled up on the floor, cuddling a pillow beneath Alleria. She was already sleeping, but the kid had been through a lot that day, and it was well past her sleep time. Ankou, as I expected was missing. He was so stubborn about being healed. But then again I didn’t have much room to talk in that department. Unless I absolutely needed it like when we had fought the Golem, I skipped out on a healing as well.
“Where do you think your going?” My green eyed friend asked with a slight mocking edge to her voice. I turned to look at her, stepping off the stairs. I was so close. I had hoped that she would be too busy healing the others to notice me leave. No such luck. “Get over here Celeste.”
I sighed in resignation. Letting my long time friend poke and prod me for injuries. They weren’t hard to find, with the tattered bits of cloth I was wearing. It didn’t take her but a few minutes to heal me, and I admitted to the relief it brought me, as well as the small amount of extra energy. Though the slice across my chest had stung something serious as she healed it.
“There. Now you can go.” She said with a smile, obviously proud of herself. Leah was skilled enough as a Healer that she very seldom left a visible scar after she was done. This time had been no different. No scar remained where the deep gashes and lacerations had once been. I nodded to her and turned back toward the stairs, intent on finding Ankou and changing into some fresh clothes. Maybe taking a bath as well, I still had blood drying on my skin, even if there were no more wounds to accompany them. Quietly I made my way down the hall and opened the door, not wanting to disturb Ankou if he was asleep already. The door opened noiselessly. Ankou stood with his back to the door, not having sensed me enter yet. His cloaks were on the floor around him, in blood flecked piles of white cloth. His doublet and shirt were on the floor as well. Bloody rips and patches of dirt covering almost their entirety. I watched him silently from the door way. His white hair was pulled over his shoulder showing a long thin cut running diagonally the length of his back. The deep crimson blood stood out in a ghastly contrast to his dark skin. His head was lowered and his shoulders slumped, making him look much smaller than he really was, blood dripped from his finger tips from some unseen wound, landing in a growing pool by his feet. His muscles were tightening sporadically and the blood flow would lessen for a few seconds at a time until he went completely lax and dropped to his knees. I crossed the room quickly kneeling down beside him.
His hair fell like a thick white veil across his face and pooled on the floor over the already present puddles of crimson blood. “Ankou…”
Stopping, I realized I didn’t know what to say. ‘Go let Leah heal you’? He was much too old for me to tell what to do. Laying my hand gently on his shoulder I was careful to avoid the wound but caressed the skin gently with my bare hand trying to comfort him in some way. Streaks of red highlighted his hair from the ever present blood. His long fingers ground into the smooth floor boards. His body rigid and shaking beneath my fingers.
“Ou dae-don’no zenk ou’ni” His voice was rough and much lower than normal. Panic registered deep under his words, hidden unless you knew exactly what to look for. I had to stop for a minute to remember the Drow I had learned. He didn’t speak in Drow but on rare occasions, so I didn’t have to remember it often. My eyes widened. He can’t heal himself.
“What?” Ankou, being a Drow could with enough concentration heal himself. It took a lot of energy and he usually had to sleep afterwards, but it was a great ability to have none-the-less. He healed much faster than Elves, even without concentrating on it, usually only a few days for a wound to heal, bones took longer, and they didn’t set themselves like with Light Elf healing magic.
“I can’t heal myself.” He repeated in native Elvish this time. I took a deep breath trying to keep myself from panicking.
“Maybe you just don’t have enough energy to.”
The Drow turned his head a fraction giving me a view of his amber yellow eyes. This showed me just how serious this was. His eyes, usually impassive were wide and panic stricken. Though his voice maintained a better level of calmness.
“Lorelei, it’s been hours and I’m still bleeding…something is wrong…” His voice cracked slightly as he tried to maintain his composure. Without a second thought I darted out of the room to get Leah, shouting all the way. The same eerie calm I had felt since coming to the Ice Plains returned as I loped down the hall and downed straight over the stairs to the ground level, where the rest of the Alliance still sat. Driden bounced to awareness when I landed roughly on the ground floor darting to Leah. She was the only other one who knew enough about him and his odd abilities to know the severity of this, and be able to do something about it. When seeing there was no danger, Driden mumbled something about “using the stairs next time” and drifted back to sleep.
“What are you shouting about?”
Skidding to a stop in front of her I began pulling her up the stairs before I even managed to say anything. Though my voice was much more calm than my heart rate at this particular moment.
“Ankou can’t heal himself. He’s still bleeding.”
Her already pale face paled even more. She had always found Ankou fascinating, and made it her business to learn all about his abilities and how they acted and reacted to different things, she made it her personal project to find something Ankou couldn’t do. So this was just as disturbing to her as it was to me. She gulped audibly still following me down the long hall.
“He can’t heal himself? At all? He’s always been able to stop his own bleeding…”
Pushing the door open again I darted once again to my Drow’s side. He was flat on the floor. His wounds had healed partially, just enough to stop the blood really, but his breathing was really shallow. He had used all of his remaining energy to heal himself. He seemed to be sleeping now. I let out a heavy breath and looked at Leah.
“Can you finish healing him?”
She nodded with a small encouraging smile while placing her slender hands just over the wound on his back. Her healing light brought the flesh together to an even, invisible seam. The only remaining clue that he even had been hurt was the lingering blood. Between the two of us we managed to flip him over so she could repeat the process to his front, healing the long slice that ran down his thigh as well. With some effort Leah and I lifted him to the bed so he could sleep the remainder of the night. She hugged me from behind, catching me off guard. She rarely hugged me, but when she did it always gave me a sense of peace.
“Don’t worry too much Celeste. He’ll be fine.”
I sighed again, but nodded. “Thanks Leah.”
“Its no problem, you know that.” She released me from her hold and left the room, saying she wouldn’t tell anyone else what had happened.
I was about to sit on the bed when I saw Fall at the door, looking in with tired eyes. I walked over to her and picked her up without a second thought. “What’s the matter with Anook?”
“Nothing, he’s just tired, so why don’t we let him sleep huh?” I said, walking silently down the hall.
She rubbed her eyes, trying to stifle a yawn. “Are you sure Anook is ok Grumpy Lady?”
I nodded to her without answering. She mumbled an ‘ok’ before she leaned her head against my shoulder drifting back to sleep. I settled her on Leah’s bed, in the room just across the hall from ours. The rest of the Alliance had seemed to fall asleep in the lobby, even though we had four rooms to occupy. Not that it had cost us anything. Returning to our room I shut the door soundlessly behind me and settled myself on the bed beside Ankou. Resting my hand on his chest I took comfort in the steady rhythm of his heart beat.
I awoke before dawn to find Ankou gone. A slight panic gripped at me before I realized the bed was still warm with his body heat; he hadn’t been gone long. I heard a small noise from the bath just next door; no one should be up this early, so I assumed it was my lost Drow. Easing my way into the room I stood by the doorway silently. Ankou stood waist deep in the water, the ends of his hair floating in the steamy water around him. Crimson leaked into the water, tinting it a slight pink hue from the stale blood that lingered on his body and hair. There were still crimson streaks marring his pristine white hair, but Ankou hardly seemed to notice.
“I’m so sorry Lorelei.”
His voice was husky from sleep, and hardly above a whisper. It didn’t surprise me he knew I was there, he always seemed to know, but that was one of the mysteries of him.
“You have nothing to be sorry for.”
He shuddered turning his body slightly toward me. The look in his eyes was enough to kill me, so much pain and sorrow shouldn’t have been able to fit into his beautiful amber eyes. He stood there for a long moment just gazing at me. His fingertips brushed the waters surface causing small ripples and his white hair snaking around his dark body. His lips parted slightly as if he wanted to say something, but it took him a long moment before he did.
“I worried you yesterday.” It was a statement rather than a question. Turning his face toward the pink tinted water he continued. “I relied too much on my abilities, and over used my magic. I should have known better, if I hadn’t been so reckless-”
“What? You protected Fall and myself using your magic. It did cost you a lot of your own energy, but Leah doesn’t mind healing you Ankou, you need to realize this. That’s her job as a Healing Priestess, and it causes her a lot less problems than when you do it for yourself.” I kneeled down on the baths ledge beside him tilting his face to look back at me. “And so what if you rely on your abilities? You’re an amazing warrior, probably the best out of all of us, if you can’t rely on your own abilities, where does that leave the rest of us, hmm?”
The sides of his lips turned upwards, in a small almost unnoticeable smile. Nuzzling my hand he sighed with a nod of acceptance.
“You’re right Lorelei, I’m sorry.”
I stayed with Ankou for a while longer, helping him rinse all of the stagnant blood from his hair and back before leaving him to rest more. He still hadn’t gained back enough of his energy for us to think about leaving yet. Leaving him to sleep I located my cloak and headed out into the street, looking for Milia. I knew the little fox was somewhere close, and she owed me a few explanations.
Chapter 28: Brief History Lesson<--changes may be made
Chapter 1: Celeste of Darksword
Chapter 2: Disturbances
Chapter 3: The Elven Realms
Chapter 4: Fayel
Chapter 5: lovers
Chapter 6:Daggers and a Daughter
Chapter 7: Faerytales Requiem
Chapter 8: Far too long
Chapter 9: Shadow Born
Chapter 10: Nightmare
Chapter 11: a Child’s Faerytale
Chapter 12: The Price of Shadow
Chapter 13: Life and Death
Chapter 14: The Dark Fae
Chapter 15: Shining in the Night
Chapter 16: Day and Night
Chapter 17: Endorea
Chapter 18: Dandragen, city of stone
Chapter 19: Golem of the Light Seal
Chapter 20: Taro's Words
Chapter 21: To the North
Chapter 22: Captain
Chapter 23: Land of Ice
Chapter 24: Home Sweet Home
Chapter 25: Milia’s little secret
Chapter 26: Darkest Prison