Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thirty Five

           Ailsie slipped her circlet off her head and set it on the low table in her sitting room. I did the same with the combs in my hair and took another sip of my wine. We sat on the floor between her sofa and table and drank our wine and talked. I had just finished telling her of Elethor in great detail and we were in a bit of a comfortable silence when it dawned on me to ask her,

           “You said you had news for me, what was it?” She sipped her wine and hastily set her glass down and took my hands smiling in her excitement.

         “Well, my old Legion is through, too many have transferred to other Legions or are carrying out the will of the Seraphim Lords on secret assignment. So, I transferred to Destiny!” I lit up; my heart lighter than it had been in days and squealed my delight wrapping my friend’s thin shoulders in a deep hug. We talked excitedly late into the night until finally succumbing to the wine and the exhaustion from my emotional turmoil I begged sleep. Ailsie, ever the good hostess, allowed me the use of her guest room and as I lay down I swear my eyes closed and I was fast asleep before my head touched the pillow. Of course, I dreamed…

            The crickets chirped and the Sparkles fluttered near a lake I had no name for. The waters were still and though they did not look deep, they were rich and dark in hue and reflected perfectly the things that glowed, it was balmy the weather crisp and on the cool side but not cold. It was so beautiful, my eyes had never seen anything like it… the closest my recollection could bring was the great tree at Arbolu’s Haven but this was not a place that I was familiar with at all. It was so foreign to me, so alien but all at once familiar. It felt like home deep in my soul and I just couldn’t understand how this was possible. The mists of the lake swirled and coalesced on the surface spinning and slowly rising into a pillar that took on a familiar hooded shape. I rested my hands on the railing of the dock and watched Aion step lightly along the water’s surface, ripples spreading slowly and lazily out from His light tread as He approached me.

          “Father.” I smiled warmly and knelt reaching my hands out. He took them and though I could not see below his cowl I knew he smiled at me too.

           “Sirona, my child. Walk with me, I would speak with you.” I rose to my feet and stepped lightly off the dock hand and hand with my Father and the water felt as solid beneath my feet as earth. I watched fascinated as a fish swam beneath me and startled a little as Aion chuckled his amusement.

           “What is it you would ask of me Father?” I watched the water beneath our feet as we circled the great tree at the center of the lake and waited quietly for Aion to answer.

          “Can a Father not simply dote on his daughter?” he asked teasingly. I stopped and studied the darkness that hid Him from me.

          “Yes, but you are very busy and a Father to us all. Forgive me my insolence but I do not suspect that you make social calls to every one of your children, and I do not see how I would be any kind of exception to that.” He patted my hand where it rested on his arm and we continued walking.

           “You are correct my daughter, but you sell yourself short… you are special.” I looked at Him rather flatly and he chuckled and got to the meat of the matter. “You love them both as I have instructed you to, though you are not happy. I fear that there will be more pain before your happiness can be complete. The fifth day of the month is but a few short days away, and though your people do not control Asteria, I want you to go to him, and wait in the cave as he instructed you.” I nodded then.

           “Is that all Father?” I asked him.

           “I want you to be true to yourself and both your men daughter, follow your heart. It will guide you true, listen to it and follow it. That is what I ask of you now and that is what I have always asked of any of my children. Now off you go. It’s time to wake up.”

           I opened my eyes to light streaming through the lace curtains in an unfamiliar room. My head ached and I said a little prayer to stop the pounding. I sat up and remembered I was in Ailsie’s guest bedroom. Aalairius would be home tomorrow, and the day after we would see… but the day after that I had somewhere I would need to be. I felt as if there was so much I needed to do and so little time I had to do it in but that wasn’t right, there really wasn’t a lot that needed doing. I got up and dressed and went into Ailsie’s galley and began to cook. If anything the simple task allowed me to clear my head and ruminate on what Aion had said to me in my dream.

          “…though your people do not control Asteria, I want you to go to him, and wait in the cave as he instructed you.”

           I took a deep breath and let it out slowly… I would see him again. Far sooner than I had expected, at least that is what I hoped Aion had meant by sending me into enemy territory despite Elethor’s insistence I wait.

          I cooked a lovely breakfast for me and my friend and waited for the smells to entice her from her bed, which it did. We talked and ate and set a date to go shopping with one another that afternoon and I left her to her work for the day whatever it may be and returned to Miriamonyerk’s bath house for the chain she had promised to have mended by this morning…

         The day was promising to be an agonizingly slow one…

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thirty Four

           “I don’t know about this Sirona, are you sure?” I sipped the Ervio wine in my glass and tipped my head to the side considering my friend. I trusted Ailsie and two bites into our meal I had told her everything about my capture, torture and rescue. The truth all of it, I had finished with most of the contents of Elethor’s letter, leaving out the choice bits about where to meet him, saying only that he wished to see me once more.

           “Ailsie, I love Aalairius, truly I do, but I have to be honest with myself, though I forgot him for a time, I never stopped loving Elethor, and he never stopped loving me… Aion told me to love them both and I do, I’m just not sure how it all goes together.” I waffled my hands back and forth in the air, suddenly at a loss on how to explain it. She searched my face and her shoulders sagged. She leaned back in her seat and continued to look at me her dark eyes showing how she mulled the entire situation over; finally she cut another bite of her food and chewed thoughtfully. I did the same.

          “How do you get yourself into these situations Sirona?” she finally asked the skepticism clear in her voice and manner. I took another sip of wine and savored it slowly thinking about it.

            “When I love, I love completely. Aion said to me, ‘There is much love in your heart despite your pain, Sirona I am telling you now to love them both. For both will need you for what lies ahead.’ I don’t know what he meant by the last Ailsie, to be honest it scares me a little but I do love them both, Aalairius for the life he has given me despite knowing nothing about me…” she interrupted me.

          “Hey now, that’s not your fault, you didn’t know anything about you except your name going in, and what you do know and what you’ve learned over the last couple of years you’ve shared with him right?”

           I nodded slowly saying, “He knows about Elethor, to a certain extent. That he was my friend before the Cataclysm, he even knows I’ve seen Evensong out there, but he doesn’t know about my time in Asmodae or that it was Elethor that put me back into his arms.” I took a swallow of my wine, a little larger than I had intended and set my glass down on the heavy wooden table. I looked anywhere but at my friend, my unease with myself probably very clear to her. She sighed and continued eating, thoughtfully. I had lost my appetite.

           I felt scrutinized and uncomfortable but when I looked back up at my friend her eyes were downcast on her meal as she cut another bite. I frowned and asked her,

            “Ailsie do you feel that?” And she looked at me with a bright smile that I knew to be false and said in a low voice.

             “That you are being watched?” Of course I do. He’s at the bar, eleven o’clock. I cut another bite of my own food and chewed and smiled back at her, before glancing toward the bar and there he was, unabashedly staring. He was lovely and somehow familiar but I could not place from where. His hair was long and the brilliant color of flame, but his eyes were hidden beneath dark glasses. He stood against the bar in a dark suit that he both looked at home in as well as out of place at the same time. I quickly averted my gaze before he could catch me looking and continued picking at my meal.

          “Do you know him?” Ailsie asked.

          “I want to say yes, I mean he’s familiar to me like I have seen him before but… no I don’t think I know him.” I finished my wine and pulled the napkin from my lap and flopped it onto my plate to hide the mostly uneaten remnants of my meal.

           “Excuse you!” Ailsie snapped as the stranger we’d commented on pulled up a chair close to me, turned it about and straddled it hugging the back nonchalantly peering closely at me, examining me and thrusting me well outside my comfort zone. I leaned away from him but now that he was closer he looked so much more familiar like I should know him… and I was almost certain I did know him, but for the life of me I just couldn’t remember.

           “Do you know me?” he asked and his voice was a light tenor that was low in volume and near brought tears to my eyes to hear.

            “I know you sir, but I don’t know you. I’m sorry…” and then he took off his glasses and looked at me with soft green eyes and I remembered. The restaurant slipped away, melting beneath the wash of memory that put me back into a time that was years ago, but still far more recent than the Cataclysm that took Elethor from me.

          I remembered this man, the feel of his skin beneath my palms as I laughingly pushed him back after a lingering kiss. The crisp cold of the waterfall falling around us… I covered my face with my palms and shook my head. Hands gently gripped my wrists and pulled them away and the stranger smiled a little sadly at me. I blushed a deep crimson, feeling the flush creep from my neck to the roots of my hair.

            “I see you remember something then.” He said with a genuine smile. “My name is Fenin, does that help?” He asked, and I remembered a little more, he was so much faster than me on foot and noiseless in the wood as we tracked the scout through the Tursin grounds… he pulled the string back on his bow…

             “Sirona what’s the matter? What are you doing to her!?” Ailsie demanded flame swirling at her finger tips.

             “Nothing Ailsie, he’s not doing anything I’m remembering things, flashing back is all… he’s jogged my memory.” I closed my eyes tight as the images swirled up, painting the inside of my eyelids in vivid color, the inside of a tent during the deepest part of what passed for night in Elysea, an exceptional kiss and wandering hands. I put my hand on his chest and pushed him back in the here and now and forced it all down trying to ground myself.

            “We were lovers.” I choked out.

             “Before your… accident, yes.” He said quietly.

            “It wasn’t an accident.” I said. “They told me I’d been tortured, badly and for a long time. That I’d lost my memory as a way of my mind to protect its self from the awfulness of what was done.” I looked at him sharply. “If we were lovers, before… why didn’t you come to see me in the infirmary?” I asked. “I never remember seeing you there and I remember everything since I woke up.” He smiled and moved a lock of my hair behind my ear.

            “I did, but you were asleep. The healers told me it was a bad idea and that I should let you go, let you heal. That if it were meant to be, you’d find me, but I knew you never would.” His smile broadened. “I am very happy to see you here Sirona, to see that you’ve recovered, even if not all your memory has returned.”

            I swallowed hard. This was so much and so strange all at once. “Why did you know I never would?” He bowed his head a little sadly.

            “I’ve never held still very long, nor did I stay with one woman very long…” He had the grace to look embarrassed before he went on “…in fact we weren’t together very long at all, just a few short months, and your heart was already spoken for. You’d get this funny look and when I’d ask all you would ever tell me was ‘I love you Fenin, but my heart can never really be yours.’ I was fine with that, really what we had was good but it was short and both being soldiers it wasn’t going to go anywhere. We were more than friends but what made us work was we were friends to start and promised to stay friends if it ever went south. We never guessed that when it went south it wouldn’t be either of our doing. When the Asmodians, they took you, I wasn’t there. I was with the party that rescued you, and brought you back though. I’ve checked in on you from time to time, since the infirmary let you go, maybe once or twice a year. Lately you’ve just looked so unhappy and I’ve wanted to know why. I promise not to bother you again after this; I just wanted to make sure you are okay.”

             Ailsie sat down and crossed her arms, watching me carefully. I looked from her to the man and back before finally staring at my hands which were covered by one of his.

             “I’m okay.” I said finally. “Aion works in some of the most mysterious ways. Thank you for telling me all this Fenin, I’m sorry I don’t remember more of you.” He touched under my chin tipping my face up to look at him.

            “You remember enough, if you ever want to know more, you can find me through the Legion’s Board.” He went to get up and I stopped him.

            “One last thing?” I asked and he nodded.

            “If not you, who did my heart belong to?” I asked.

            “You never said, just that he had died. I thought he was some human but one night when you were pretty drunk I asked you again, and you said he was a Sorcerer, a Daeva you had trained with, and that he was lost when the Tower of Eternity had fallen. You were pretty drunk though and I thought you had to be pulling my leg, there aren’t that many Daevas around old enough to remember the fall aside from the Seraphim Lords themselves.” Ailsie looked at me her eyes wide.

             “She is that old.” Ailsie said quietly. I knew Ailsie to be one of the older Daeva, she had ascended around two or three hundred years after the Tower’s fall… To think, I had felt so young and inexperienced around her before my memory had begun to return. Fenin looked surprised before he slipped his glasses back on.

            “Take care of yourself Sirona. If you ever want to talk, come find me.” He said finally when the silence between the three of us had grown long. I nodded to him and he took his leave. I looked back at my friend who chewed her lip thoughtfully.

          “Come back to my place I want to talk about this some more.” She said finally.

          “I think that was Aion’s way of showing you I wasn’t crazy.” I said. “Because only He knows, I’ve needed someone to talk to and to believe in me Ailsie.” I watched her shoulders sag.

          “I’m sorry Sirona; I didn’t want to believe all this. It’s too much, I don’t know how you do it, how you’ve been doing it. I can’t imagine how this must be for you.” She trailed off and we sat across from one another in silence.

            I didn’t know how I was going to do this either, I loved Elethor, but I also loved Aalairius with every fiber of my being. Now all I had to do was find a way to love them both and be happy. Wasn’t that what Aion said He had wanted for me? What any Father wants for his child, for them to be happy… Right now looking at my friend across the table in the Dancing Dove I realized that Aion had set before me one very tall order. I loved them both completely, but how to be happy? It was then that Ailsie said it…

            “Well Sirona, you love them, and I know that when you are with them you are happy, I guess the times in between where you are sad are there to make sure you cherish the happy when you get it.” She smiled encouragingly at me and paid for our meals and another bottle of Ervio wine, holding out her arm in a crook for me. I smiled at her and linked my arm with hers and we strolled out of the public house and down the lane towards her dwelling.

            “Tell me more about tall dark and…” she looked carefully around us and whispered for my ear alone “… tall dark and Asmodian.” I laughed and as we walked let my mind fill with images of Elethor both the way he had been before… and the beautiful man he was to me now.

             I had a lot to tell my friend…

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thirty Three


         I smiled, and let out a breath I hadn’t remembered holding. The single sheet of rich parchment trembled in my shaking hands. I read on, my vision slowly beginning to blur as the tears began to well and prickled the backs of my eyes.

          I have written this letter a dozen times over, and every time words fail me. After the Cataclysm I searched for weeks looking for you, I was hell bent on finding you. My mind was frantic with worry. I spent weeks alone in the wilds, hoping and praying that you were still with us and unharmed. As time passed and I found no signs of you I began to lose hope, and finally I was forced to face facts. You were lost to me.

          I was devastated, and nearly overcome with grief. It took some time but I was able to recover, but I was not the same. The pain of losing the one dearest to me was unbearable, but I had my duties to attend to and could spare no more time for my pain. I devoted myself to my studies so I could become more powerful and so I would never again lose someone close to me. Time passed and my pain dulled, but my memories stayed fresh and sharp in my mind.

          My dreams were often haunted by your visage, of our days at the waterfall, and our tree where we would laze quietly with one another. But through it all, I remained determined to not let it weigh me down or interfere with my responsibilities. This was my life, going day by day with a dull ache in my heart that I could never soothe nor replace with anyone else.

          I choked, a sob biting at the back of my throat, and covered my mouth with the back of my hand startled at the sound I had made. I knew his pain… in a rush of sense memory so strong it left me gasping and bereft. I scrubbed furiously at the tears in my eyes so that I may continue reading.

           When I first saw you in that cellar I had thought I was mistaken, that it couldn't be you. But when you looked at me I knew, and it was all I could do to keep my feelings hidden. After we handed you back to your people I was again plagued by dreams, and I feared for your safety. And yet, if you hold this letter now, you have found me again, though reading it means we have been parted again as well. It seems it is Aion's will that we be reunited only to be thrust apart again and again.

            Well I have had enough! I must see you, but I would not risk your safety. When your people next control Asteria Fortress on the highest layer of the Abyss, I will be waiting. Just West of the fortress is a small cave system, its entrance is marked by a waterfall. I shall be at the end of the cave on the fifth day of every month. I shall await you once the sun has set in your land of Elysea.

            Tell no one and come alone. Please, for you own safety, burn this letter. Though I know there are few of us left that know the old language all it would take is one...

           I hope to see you soon.

A thousand years and still yours,


            I crushed the letter to my chest and bent double, overwhelmed. The tears spilled freely down my cheeks, hot, immediate and unrelenting I sobbed. A thousand years and he still loved me. He had looked for me and hadn’t stopped for week’s maybe even months. If I had ever wondered if Elethor loved me back, I held the proof now. Oh Aion, Father, why must it be this way?

             “Oh hey now, what’s this?” I sat up startled and quickly wiped at my tears. A man, another Cleric stood near, arms crossed over his chest, considering. “What’s the matter?” he asked.

         “Nothing.” I answered and was surprised that in this moment, that was true. I was loved, and I would see him again, how could anything be wrong? I wiped my face with trembling fingers and smiled bravely.

          … I will be waiting… I shall be at the end of the cave on the fifth day of every month...

           “A woman does not weep like that if nothing is wrong, child.” He said gently, and took a seat at the other end of the bench. His coat was fine chain and a true red edged with gold. A Miragent Knight, though he had to have just come from an official meeting of some sort, for he carried no shield or mace. I considered him carefully. He looked careworn, but it did not detract from how handsome he was. He was young, having ascended no later than his early thirties, but his hair had gone white as the snows I had wondered at in Beluslan. Stubble shadowed his cheek, and you could see his nose had been broken and reset badly a time or two. He was a warrior and by all accounts some kind of leader with how his shoulders weighed with his responsibility.

           I swallowed hard and folded the letter quickly before he could see any of it and tucked it away inside my cube, seeing I was about to speak he took a seat at the other end of the bench I occupied.

            “Have you ever lost something or someone precious to you for a time, only to find years later that they were never lost at all?” I asked.

          He leaned his elbows on his knees and considered what I had said.

          “I can’t say that I have.” He finally said honestly. He looked back at me and smiled and I smiled shyly in return. “So I take it that these are good tears and the Abyss isn’t falling on your head after all?” he queried.

          “Something like that.” I answered and smiled again.

           “Oh, well good, what is your name?” he asked.

           “I’m Sirona, Centurion of Legion Destiny and Cleric of Aion’s holy light.” I held out my hand and he took it shaking it firmly.

           “Well Centurion Cleric Sirona. I’m Andrei, Brigade General of Ascendance and also a Cleric of Aion’s light.” My chest squeezed tight and my mouth went dry.

           “Pleased to meet you, General Andrei.” I whispered. He laughed, and it was a genuine sound, clear and full of mirth.

           “Don’t look at me like that Sirona.” He said.

           “Like what?”

           “Like I’ve just sprouted a second head.” He laughed again, though it was more of a chuckle, and got up. “I’m glad you are feeling better. Blessings upon you.”

            “And you sir.” I replied automatically.

            “Not sir, just Andrei.” He said as he wandered off, the most brilliant tactical leader the Elyos had seen in almost a hundred years… both bless and damn my luck today.

            I looked at the setting sun and got up myself. I had just enough time to meet Ailsie and not be late, Aion forbid I be late to a meeting with Ailsie, Bless her heart she was so punctual she made my mind ache.

*Special thanks for this post goes straight to the man who plays Elethor in game.  He wrote the letter to Sirona for me because I just couldn't get into his character's head enough to do it my self which is why you guys haven't gotten anything from me in almost a month, Elethor wrote the letter, emailed it to me and I wrote three parts to the story last night.  So here you go, here is another one.  If you have the time and you play on Ariel you can thank Elethor on the Ariel official forums if you are Elyos or in-game if you are Asmodian.  More to come soon.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Thirty Two

          Miriamonyerk took one look at the state of my chain and with many tsking sounds and with her little clawed hands on her hips demanded I leave it with her. She muttered and worried at her apron at the amount of my blood that coated the inside of the cloth lining and metal links and handed me a robe to go home in. She told me to return in the morning for my armor, and for once I acquiesced. I went home with my cube clutched in one hand and the thick parchment letter from Elethor tucked safely out of sight. I was almost afraid of what it would say and so, I put it off, setting it on the small dining table, the blue wax seal enticing as I moved about my small galley fixing a meal for my beloved and best friend.

          Aalairius had been beside himself when I’d approached him. He had clutched me to the plate of his chest and only let go when Toxemia had stepped up and said that I may need to breathe sometime in the near future. They had both returned to duty but not before making me promise to bring them dinner at their guard posts at Roah Fortress later that night. I had agreed, all too happy to spare them from the rations Aalairius always complained ‘taste like oppression’.

          I worked carefully, lovingly preparing the Calydon meat dumplings that were their particular favorite and fixing the Cellatu porridge that I knew they would do without if they could. All the while my gaze swung back to the small table with its white envelope smeared at the corner with a bit of my blood, the elegant script spelling my name on its front, the blue wax seal embossed so carefully with his Legion’s crest begging to be broken. I set everything to steam and cook and went into our bedroom to dress.

          The letter lay like an accusation in the home that Aalairius had built for me with his love and devotion. I felt as if I betrayed him somehow because I knew that despite my best intentions towards them both, neither would understand the other. I finished preparing the meal and packed it carefully into my cube, took my staff from the corner and picked up the white parchment bearing my name. I finally tucked it into the front of my dress near my skin and smoothed a hand over the spot to assure myself that it left no outward appearing line in the fabric. I would have to find the time to read it and soon… perhaps on my way back from Roah, but for now, my beloved awaited me and some decent food and so I left our home and went down the lane toward Elyos Square.

          I stepped through the teleporter at the Exalted Path and into the bustle of Veriton Citadel and its open air market. I spread my wings and took flight through the Abyss gate and touched down lightly at Teminon Fortress into the bright light and hot winds of the Abyss.

          “Sirona!” a light and airy voice exclaimed and I turned a genuine smile on the person that it came from. She was a sorceress and a dear friend whom I hadn’t seen in months due to her Legion activities.

          “Ailsie, you’re back.” I said. She smiled, dark eyes lighting up.

          “Where are you off to in such a hurry?” she asked me. I smiled wanly,

          “Tox and Aal pulled guard duty at Roah this week, they asked me to save them from another night of rations.” Ailsie laughed, a wisp of her blonde hair escaping it’s careful knot to trace the graceful curve of one cheek. I always envied my friends beauty. Forever feeling so plain beside her.

          “Well don’t let me keep you then. Have you eaten?” she asked. I shook my head. “Then come have supper with me tonight at the Dancing Dove in Sanctum, my treat.” I agreed happily. “Don’t be late,” she said as she slipped past me into the fortress. “I’ve news for you.” She called back. I nodded and went down the landing to catch a transport direct to Roah.

          “About time!” Tox shouted from across the fortress proper, trotting up to me I grinned at him and opened up my cube and handed him several of the dumplings and bottled porridge before I even had the chance to step out of the alcove designated for arrivals.

           He kissed my cheek and with a rakkish grin tipped his head back and yelled to the watch above us on the ramparts.

           “Aal! Your woman is here! She has food! Delicious, delicious food.” He mumbled the last around a mouthful of dumpling. I laughed at him and took the ramp up to where Aalairius stood watch. He removed his helm as I approached and bent at the waist to kiss me gently before taking his meal into his large gauntleted hands.

           “Thank you.” He murmured as he tucked in.

          “I ran into Ailsie at Teminon. She asked me to meet her for dinner at the Dancing Dove.” I told him as he ate. He chewed and swallowed and nodded at me.

          “Good, it’s been a while since you’ve seen her, I think you need a night out with another woman.” He smiled at me teasing.

           “Well you can get those images right out of your head.” I told him. He laughed, a deep rich sound.

          “When will you be home?” I asked him. His expression darkened a bit.

           “Day after tomorrow. Try to keep out of trouble for the next day or so?” he pleaded. I smiled wryly and nodded, throat tight with guilt. I hadn’t meant to appear in Asmodae like I did. Truth was I still didn’t know how it was even possible. I talked a while more with Aal as he ate and finally when he needed to return to watch I kissed him farewell and used a scroll to return home to Sanctum.

          I slung my staff over my back by it’s cord and wandered into Elyos Square, it was near deserted this time of day… I chose an unoccupied bench and checked the angle of the sun. It would be another hour or more before I would need to meet with Ailsie, and so now was as good a time as any. I plucked Elethor’s letter from the inside of my dress and broke the seal…