Aerlin found herself in a comfortable room that reminded her much of Gandalf's study, which she had seen only briefly before he sent her away. One wall had a bookshelf full of books and other strange objects, while pictures and other memorabilia hung from other walls. There was no doorway in or out, and a desk with a white book was in front of her.
Across the desk was a chair, and in it sat the man, looking regal and authoritarian, as if -this- were where he belonged and had always been. His tunic was a dark grey, bordering on black, and a lavender gem was upon his brow. He looked so much like Gandalf, and yet not so.
"So you decided to come through. I am glad." He gestured with his hand, and a chair appeared in front of her. "Please, take a seat. Forget your sorrows, hard as that may be. Here, you are safe from the Wraith-kin."
"Who are you?" she asked tremblingly, taking a sip from the cup of tea that he gave her. She had almost a thought that it might be Sir Tivadar, from the history she had learned in the City of Solitude. But her mind couldn't focus on the name, and so she asked to remove confusion.
"I am \i[Fuer Grisse}, the Bringer. You may call me Bringer. I know much about you. I'm afraid you know perilously little about me, though." He flipped through the pages of the white book. "I read that you would come. See? Your arrival was predestined, and you didn't even know."
"Who knew that I would come?" she wondered aloud, curiousity mingling with her sorrow.
"There are powers in the universe you and I cannot possibly comprehend, Aerlin. The magic of the Alabaster Tome is one of these. It foretold that you would come to this valley and free me." He leaned back in his chair. "You may find this strange, but I am one of the Wraith-kin, myself."
"Then surely you know what they are and what they want, Bringer?" Bringer smiled at her.
"The Wraith-kin are vengeful spirits, Aerlin, plain and simple. They are taskless and purposeless, and that alone makes them most dangerous. They cannot be killed, for they are already dead, but the magic that animates them can be banished, as you did out there.
"Many innocent lives were stolen prematurely in the ancient Atog Wars, people slain for no greater cause than a madman's attempt at domination. Most were denied proper burial, and their blood was allowed to soak into the ground. They were bound to this plane and not allowed to go to their eternal rest.
"The bloodiest battles were fought on this side of the mountains, and so there is a large concentration of spirits nearby. We are now retained in the world of the living by the powers unleashed by a certain Sir Tivadar, who opened the Tome of Alabaster, and gave us this pitiful caricature of life."
Aerlin was enraptured by his voice and the story he was weaving around her. She could feel the pain of the dying and dead, so close to her was the loss of Maraxus. "But you're so different from those...things!" Things came out as a fearful, despairing curse.
Bringer leaned back and drummed his fingers on the desk, and he remained silent for a moment, considering his thoughts carefully.
"That is true. I'm in a curious position myself. I am a soul manifest, a twinned entity that never had a body, never lived life. I am bonded to your father, Gandalf. His magics birthed me, but I fell in the Atog Wars, and so I am ashamed to say I was awakened by the same magic that gave rise to the Wraith-kin. We had until recent months been unable to even leave this valley since our awakening."
As Bringer spoke, he stood from his chair and moved around the desk to stand behind Aerlin, and put his hands on her shoulders as she was lost in thought, and the trance invoked by his speech. Stooping, he whispered in her ear.
"But now, one has come who cannot meet death from the Wraith-kin, one who can break the spell binding me here. It is you, Aerlin. Will you free me?"
"What binds you here, Bringer?" she asked, her voice faint and far away. His lips were close, so close to her ear. She was intoxicated by his presence.
"I am bound by the limits of the spell giving me life, just as the Wraith-kin are. But they are free to do as they please, and can kill the living. I cannot. When they kill, it gives them power to range that much farther from the valley. There is nothing living here, and they move as far away as they can, taking travelers that come too close, and then they can move farther away. Killing serves twin purposes for them. They get their revenge, and then they get the ability to get to more distant prey and continue.
"I cannot kill because my fathering spirit still lives. I cannot take revenge upon the living."
Aerlin slowly stood and faced him. Tears were in her eyes. "That's so sad." He welcomed her to his arms, embracing her tightly. You are nearly mine, Aerlin... He thought.
"You have lost much today, Aerlin." His lips brushed against hers. "I can give you something back. Gandalf still lives in the City of Solitude." He gave her a light kiss as his hands ran down her body. "If you free me, I can promise to take you there safely." Another kiss, then he stepped back from her. Still she clung to him.
"I miss my father dearly," she said. "I want to see him again." Her lips now sought out his as she gazed into his soulful grey eyes.
"You cannot travel while you are injured. The Wraith-kin touched you in the valley."
"I'm not hurt," she said, indignant.
"Nonsense, Aerlin. Here, remove your shirt and let me see." His lips brushed hers as he spoke. "I cannot kill the living, but I may heal them." Aerlin took a step back, face flushing as she did so.
"That would be improper, Bringer. I cannot do that."
"The Wraith-kin strike with poisoned claws. I must ensure that you are free from that danger."
"I believe you are seducing me, Bringer." I am indeed, Aerlin, he thought. The light from the candles dimmed low. He grabbed her hand again and drew her close. Once more she was in his thrall.
"Listen to me then, Aerlin. The power that gives me this life is benevolent. I too, have no wish to harm you, even if I could. If the eternal peace I desire can be given by you, then it is in my best interest to aid you. But I must tend you before you can tend to me." He held her hands between his. Damn you, how is it that you resist me still? "Don't you want to see your father again?"
A new tear trickled down her cheek. He brushed it away, and his hand coiled her hair back around her ear. He kissed her neck. Her eyes closed, and a thrill ran down her spine.
Faintly, like a ghost, she asked, "What must I do, Bringer?" But she no longer cared about the living world. Bringer smiled. Almossst...almossst... Unspeaking, he unbuttoned her tunic and removed it. She was lost in the pleasure of the spell he had woven over her. Still he was good on his promise, and examined her body for signs of Wraithen poison. Where his hand fell, her wounds were healed.
"The Wraith-kin must kill to have the energy to leave this place. I must create life to have the same effect." He gently lowered her to the ground.
"What are you saying?" Aerlin returned, pulling him to her. She wanted him like she wanted no other. His spell had subverted her mind completely, and she was both unwilling and eager at the same time. She could no longer control her own actions, and was powerless in his arms. He's using you, Aerlin! Resist him NOW! her mind screamed at her.
For a moment, panic shook her. Everything was wrong. She should not be there, should not be half-naked as she was, should not...Then the moment passed. Bringer's magic reasserted its control. She was not yet strong enough in her magic to break it. Bringer had lowered himself on top of her.
"To free me, to see your father again, we must make love, Aerlin." His mouth moved down her body. There it lingered on her breasts. She grabbed his hair and pulled his face up. Her eyes were brimming with fury, she knew now what was happening, they both knew. Now she was afraid.
"Everything will be fine, Aerlin. Everything will be fine," he said as he summoned more mana for the spell than ever. Darkness washed over Aerlin, and she was lost.