(OOC: Yes, the muse hit me, and I've had the time to catch up on some things, hence the massive outpouring of stories in the past two days. I sure hope Thrak shows up again, or I might just carry things on in his absence... -Elrohir)
November 18, 794 - TR
Early morning sunlight and the glow of the Alabaster Monolith mingled and shone through the shattered doorway of an abandoned home. Aerlin rolled over, peering through her fingers in brief wonder at it, then immediately sat up in bed with realization. What am I doing in this place? she thought to herself.
When the cold morning air touched her skin, she realized she was naked under the sheets, and knew something was very wrong. Fear, anger, fury,and revulsion washed over her, and she vomited on the floor. Clutching the sheet around her, she darted her eyes around the room seeking out Bringer. He was not nearby.
Over the back of a chair, she found her clothing, neatly folded and mended. She rose and dressed herself, and found among her things the Edair, still wrapped in its protective bindings. Aerlin felt different now, violated, and she hated knowing that Bringer had done something to her on a primal level that she could never recover from.
As much as she hated how Bringer had taken her so completely, her spirit had been singed with mana, and she now knew the touch of magic. Aerlin finished dressing, strapping the small dagger to her waist and picking up the book. Knowing the touch of magic was different from being able to use it effectively. She would not be able to unravel the spells keeping the Edair shut to her.
She went outside, and the day was fresh and clear. The vast silence that had greeted her arrival was gone now, and wildlife had at last returned, for good or ill. With a whinny, her horse made itself known, and she gave it a half-smile, glad to see something friendly for once. Wraith-kin no longer haunted Thorn, but its people were still no less dead.
The smoldering ruins of Maraxus's funeral pyre caught her eye, and she mourned anew her loss. His defense had been valiant, but even he could not defeat the dead who came for him. The living dead. For their efforts, the Wraith-kin gained a great amount of energy and had fled the valley to join the others that had already departed east. Aerlin was staring solemnly into the ashes when a comforting hand slipped around to hold her belly.
"I'm glad to see you're awake, my love," Bringer said. Aerlin whirled and pushed him away, drawing her dagger in the same movement.
"Don't you ever touch me again!" she screamed. The fury in her eyes would have sufficed.
"Why so cruel, after all that you, that we shared, Aerlin? I have come merely to thank you for giving me life, and to extend again my offer to escort you to the City of Solitude to be with your father again."
She saw only kindness in his eyes, and her distrustful gaze lowered somewhat, disarmed by what she saw. Bringer was dressed in impeccable jet-black tunic and trousers, cloaked in dull grey. Riding gear was outfitted over this, and an average sword was strapped to his side. Slate grey eyes and shoulder-length, combed black hair lent nobility to his appearance. Despite her misgivings, Aerlin felt a twinge in her heart, urging her to love him rather than loathe him.
Bringer casually took the dagger from her hand, and put it back in its sheathe. "You have nothing to fear from me, Aerlin." He tilted her chin up, so he could look into her eyes directly. She did not resist. "Long I existed in that form, and the dreadful half-life I was granted. You cannot imagine what a horror that was."
Aerlin battled her emotions. Part of her was falling in love with the soft-spoken, handsome man now before her, but another part was against the idea, knowing Bringer had used her. Saturated confusion drowned her soul. Hiding her reservations, she spoke.
"If my father really is alive, I must take this book to him. I was to leave it in Pheodran, but I actually managed to forget all about it in my haste to get here. He won't be pleased, but there's nothing I can do about that now," she explained. In her voice was still more anger than she expected.
"A book! Please, may I see it?" She gave it to him willingly, but as he unwrapped the bindings, lightning crackled all about and he dropped the book. "Ah! It's warded somehow. You've had problems with it as well?"
"Yes. Gandalf told me to read from it, but I haven't been able to open it since he gave it to me. Maybe you can teach me some magic that would allow me access?"
Bringer looked at her thoughtfully. "Magic has its price for the power it grants. Admittedly, it was through my actions that you were exposed to using it directly, but I needed to be sure you could help me. I am loathe to further train you, for fear of the greater harm that may be done." I do not want you free of my powers just yet, either, he thought.
"I've used magic before, Bringer. But this is new, different," she said. "My father taught me a little, what I allowed myself to learn. Now, it's like a fire, tearing me apart inside. I fear it will consume me. I would rather learn to control it than be destroyed."
"I will consider it, then. But not now." Bringer paused. "Something about Maraxus's death granted power to the Wraith-kin, and they are gone, fled both east and west. They will spread like a plague and bring much death to the living."
"We must stop them. I will not let my uncle's death be for nothing, Bringer."
Bringer nodded and hugged her tight. "Then I must get to Gandalf. He will know a way - or think of a way - to stop them. Please, will you accompany me?"
"I swore to myself that I would see the Wraith-kin destroyed, and the task is not finished. If the path I follow must return me to my home, for good or ill, then I must go there. Thorn holds nothing for me now."
"This is good. Since Maraxus no longer needs his horse, would you object if I rode him? I have no other option."
Aerlin agreed. "It is a trusty steed, and we've had him since we left Whayn-Fharh."
"Whayn-Fharh! Does that mucky old town still exist, even today? It is a long way to Thorn from there. A harder, longer road I've not yet seen."
Laughing aloud, Aerlin surprised them both. "Yes, it still exists! It's now a sprawling metropolis and no longer just a town." She grinned. "Perhaps I could take you there one day, when our task is less in need of haste." Already she was embracing the thought of a return to her home, to see her father. Almost forgotten now was her hatred of Bringer as his spells once more swayed her mind...and her heart.
"Then we shall not tarry longer. The mountains have their own great perils, and though we need no longer fear the Wraith-kin, we must be wary of other dangers still." Bringer went and collected some supplies, what little he could find, as well as Maraxus's horse. Before the sun was yet high, they departed for the City of Solitude.