Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fifty One

           I tipped my face up into the sunlight and listened to the distant shouts of the incoming supply lines and the nearer clash of training weapons. At the time I hadn’t known that it would be the last time I would feel the warmth and light on my skin… The camp that had sprung up on the Asteria plains was a comfortable one, and with the day of a spring like quality it was hard not to relax and enjoy it even if it was a siege. I let my attention drift over the tops of the tents neatly nestled together in their perfectly regimented rows to the looming structure that was Asteria fortress and the Asmodian garrison that patrolled the ramparts. I had seen the legion crests of their forces flying high above the gray stone walls and easily spotted the one our intel had described as Daemon Proxy’s. Elethor was in there I could feel it deeply, and the tug on my soul that was bound to him had confirmed his nearness; it had eased my worry marginally.

           The sun was setting and soon the mess tents would fill and after that, the firesides. We had held them at our mercy for a while now… cutting off their supplies and knocking on their gates. Finally there were whispers through the camp that a representative would be sent out and demands would be exchanged, so we waited. I found Ailsie by the fire well within view of the great fortress and we sat together as some of the more talented daeva’s set down their arms and took up their instruments. The sun dipped low behind the rocky crag that served as Asteria’s backdrop and darkness descended as the first mournful call of the violin went up into the air. We listened and some danced and the entertainment went on for a bit when a stir moved through the crowd as Andrei and several of his most trusted Centurions moved through the crowd to the edge of the camp where the Asteria Plains met with the sheer cliff surrounding the fortress.

           I saw the shadows descend from the air, I saw the gleam of red, diminished by distance and the firelight and as Andrei and our men approached my heart seized in my chest when I saw it was him and two others from his Legion that walked with my Brigade General. I rose as did several others at their approach and the music stilled. Elethor’s expression gave nothing away as his gaze slid over me and I gripped Ailsie’s wrist tightly in an effort to keep myself carefully schooled away.

           “Don’t stop on our account!” Andrei said as they strode passed and my gaze locked briefly with my beloveds. His eyes, still faintly glowing raked me over from head to foot and a muscle in his jaw twitched with barely perceived relief when he saw I was whole. I fought to keep my expression neutral and inclined my head and looked away but Ailsie… Ailsie had seen it.

           “That’s him isn’t it?” she asked me… and I let her wrist go. My attention on his retreating back as the crowds closed behind him and they made their way to the central command tent towards the Elyos guard tower established at Asteria some time ago.

           “Yes,” I murmured for my friend’s ear alone… “Yes that’s Elethor.” What is he doing here!? My agonized mind screamed… but it was a mystery that I would have to live with for the time being as the music started up again and I sat back down, resolutely fending off an inquiry to dance.

           The night wore on and my distraction grew as I spent the entirety of my time forcing myself to remain still and not seek out the command tent to listen or to find how things fared. Eventually, when the time permitted I left the fireside and found my tent and the cot within. Out here on the siege field I slept uncomfortably in my boots, greaves and hauberk with my mace and shield close at hand. It was how Ailsie found me in the middle of the night, the camp quiet and still. I woke with her hand over my mouth, her lips hissing me to silence beside my ear.

          “They have him Sirona, I never thought I would see the day the Elyos would betray a peace talk but they’ve done it and if you want to save him you have to go now.” She muttered in a rush. I took up my shield and mace and stood, shaking in the dark but not with cold. Dread uncoiled in the pit of my stomach and I slipped down the lines of canvas behind the lithe shadow my friend cast as she led me to the Guard Tower.

           Ailsie went ahead of me and spoke to the guards stationed outside; drawing them away from the door and turning them round just enough for me to use the techniques Toxemia had taught me to slip passed them. I went in, and followed the winding stair down, down, down to the cell block beneath where I heard them, several men… and the beating of my Elethor.

          “Stop!” I barked at them, Andrei turned his arms crossed and an ugly look upon his face, Leogetz looked up from the prone figure of my beloved on the stone floor and drew back as if to kick him again. I spoke a word of command and unleashed the prayer and watched as it knocked Leo clear of him. There were more of my people than there was of me and I knew it to be a lost cause from the beginning but I resigned my fate, even as Xanathar advanced on me bringing his great sword to bear I brought up my shield and took a defensive stance, moving myself to stand above my beloved even as I heard Leo exclaim,

          “You traitor bitch!”

          “Me a traitor!? What is it you do here?” I demanded parrying a blow with my mace trying to guard myself and Elethor at the same moment. “You break treaty and for what!? One less crow on the battlefield when the time comes?” I miscalculated and took a severe stroke to the ribs, collapsing to my knees.

          “Send her back to her bind point; we’ll deal with her later.” Andrei’s voice was colder than an Asmodian winter as Leo brought down the point of his blade, through my back and I let go… flowing through the aether to the bind point closest to me… to Elethor who lay in the open cell door way struggling to breathe.

          I gathered to myself and spoke a prayer of healing feeling my reserves fill, using their shock to my advantage to better my stance for the next onslaught. Their eyes wide with shock I told them in a dramatic whisper,

          “I will not leave him.” They came at me again, and again I fell only to bring myself up at his side once more. A third time I fell, and a fourth but I would not bend I would not sway and I would not leave his side… finally Andrei bellowed,

          “Enough! She wants to side with the crows so badly then let her, lock them both in.” he left then, storming up the stairs and I admit no little satisfaction at his discomfiture. I had been unarmed and stood in the cell, breathless but with no little fight left in me as they caged us. When they were gone I fell to my knees and lifted Elethor’s prone figure into my arms.

           “You should not…” he coughed blood and made a sound of pain deep in his chest before squeezing out the rest. “You should not have done that.”

          “Shhhh, be still my love. I will get us out, I will get you back to your people I’m just not sure how just yet.”

          He clung to me, head in my lap as he fought to stay conscious, Aion knows how long they had him before Ailsie had come to fetch me… I prayed and prayed and finally my prayers were answered as the cell door unlocked and Tox seemed to appear from the aether it’s self.

          “This is got to be the dumbest thing I have ever helped you do.” He said finally, helping me to help Elethor to his feet. My beloved swayed between us and my fear grew.

          “I need to get him back to his people.” I said as we made for the stairs, Ailsie joined us outside.

          “Move quietly.” She said, “Sleeping storm only lasts so long and only on so many people, it took better hold on those all ready asleep.” We rushed to the edge of the chasm around Asteria Fortress, Tox and Ailsie remaining at the tent line, I shouted when we were close enough and signaled the Asmodian guard, who came down to help me. I went up and into the fort following my love as they tended him, Dark coming to keep them off of me until I could see this through. I waited in the hall with the big Gladiator and when he was well enough, was allowed to see my Elethor one last time…

            He sat in a sturdy chair, his ribs bandaged carefully from armpit to hip. I straddled his lap carefully and lowered myself to sit on the arms of the chair. I kissed him carefully as his hands rode on my hips gently. I rested my forehead against his and sniffed, the tears slipping free and gliding down my cheeks.

           “I’m so sorry.” I said finally. “I had no idea what they were…” I sobbed and jumped slightly at a crash down the hall, the sound of plate and chain rattling.

          “Shhhh no no no. This isn’t your fault.” He cupped my face in his hands and kissed me gently as he said it.

          “They’re coming for me now.” I said, “I need you to let me go. I need you to heal and be safe.” He shook his head violently at my words and I stilled him taking the decorative combs from my hair and pressing them into his hands, I wanted him to have something of me and it was all I had to give. “I love you.” I said withdrawing from him.

          “Sirona no!” he tried to get up and collapsed back weakly into his chair.

          “It’s okay. I promise its okay. I love you Elethor, always you, forever you and only you.” He slammed his fist into the wooden arm and for the first and only time I saw my lover cry, crystalline tears slipping down the dusky blue of his cheek from his crystalline eyes.

          “I love you Sirona, always you, forever you and only you…” I straightened and slipped out of the chamber into the hall passed Dark and Dracia. I looked at the Glad and Assassin, both gripping their weapons ready to fight and shook my head, stepping passed them into the hall and towards the advancing guards.

          I called out to Dark, “Tell them I won’t resist, I’m coming willingly.” And he did for me, the guards slowing… “Dark, take care of Elethor, promise me you both will take care of him.”

          He swore to me and the assassin followed suit and I stepped forward wrists together arms held before me so the guards could bind me, which they did swiftly and mercilessly, throwing a black hood over my face and hustling me violently forward.

          We took no less than three teleports, and finally I felt we were marching through a city… Eventually we went into a building and down, so far down and I could hear the rattle of chains and the clang of cell doors and it was so very dark. I remained calm, burning the image of my beloveds face into my thoughts even as I felt him so dim and far away from me. Eventually the hood was ripped from my face and I was left blinking into torch light.

          “You understand me yes?” the jailer asked. I nodded carefully. “You will tell us everything we ask yes?” he asked and I shook my head no. He slammed his ledger onto a table and I was dragged to a cell with no window and no bars. I was thrown in and the heavy iron door was closed behind me. All the rest was total darkness. I found myself a corner and slouched against the wall, working at the bindings on my wrists with my teeth…

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