Girls like her didn't grow up in the palace. At least, that was what her mother told her. Girls like her were meant to run wild, to feel grass beneath their feet and weave flowers in their hair. The world of men did not appreciate magic, especially magic of their sort. Magic that slipped through the cracks, lived among them. People who shattered mirrors when they cried, and caused fires to explode from the hearth. People who made water boil in the heat of emotion, and pretended they were just as stunned as everyone else. Quite frankly, Megara had always thought her mother was a little unstable. The woman loved magic, despite how it threatened her life. She spoke of the wilderness, strolled through the gardens, loved with a sort of care free casualty that had left her with Meg, and no trace of a husband. No, Meg never quite understood her. How could the gardens be so magical, when the flowers wilted along with her tired soul?
That was the thing, nature didn't hold the magic. She did, and she could wreck it all if she wasn't careful. There was nothing special about killing a bed of roses, or breaking a piece of fine China because you couldn't control your rage. The only sound advice her mother had ever given her was to keep it a secret; but Meg could have figured that out on her own. Whispers of witchcraft were not uncommon, and people would burn their children at the stake for nothing more than an accusation. No, her mother hadn't needed to tell her that, and she certainly hadn't needed to fill her head with fantasies of a better life. They worked in the palace because of her mother's fantasies, because she couldn't contain her passion for life. But in the end, it was a good thing she had a stable job from the time she could work. Why? Because her mothers fantasies killed her, as fantasies always do. Meg was seven at the time, with a good deal of confusion in her troubled little head over how exactly her mother had managed to get pregnant. Babies came from marriage, and marriage went with her mother like gravy and strawberry jam. And yet, promises of a sibling were made as her abdomen grew larger and larger.
But fantasies were deadly, weren't they? And death was greedy. After hours of ear shattering screams her baby brother came into the world, still and silent as though he were asleep. Her mother has sobbed hysterically, only to die herself less than an hour later. And what of Meg, standing in the corner, crying in confusion and distress? Another maid, a mother of four, wiped her eyes and helped her pray for her mother's soul. The next morning life moved on, as life always did. Two graves, one large and one small, were dug in the cemetery just past the churchyard. Adultresses and bastard children weren't buried on holy ground. It was hard to lose herself in mourning when there was so much work to be done. The servants looked after her when she needed looking after, but there was no one to hold her at night or kiss her cuts when potato peeling went horribly wrong. Though her mother had been somewhat exhausting for the somewhat serious girl, Meg had never experienced 'lonely'. Oh, what an experience it was.
She'd never considered herself someone that would risk everything for another. She wasn't a hopeless romantic, but her craving for human contact grew insatiable over the years. As her friends grew up around her and began to fall in love with stable hands and page boys, she began to feel utterly alone. Once or twice she caught the eye of a man, but they were never of the sort you want to attract. Somewhere along the way she'd become pretty, with large blue eyes and dark auburn hair, full lips and a heart shaped face. Her body had not grown to be willowy and thin like her mothers, but curved with a feminine sort of softness those stable boys loved to press up against. Of course, she quickly earned a reputation for being a tease when gifts and compliments were not followed by an open invitation to ravage her. And while the other girls pretended to tease her affectionately, she knew they were saying all sorts of nasty things behind her back. Of course, the girls were the least of her worries when the prince requested her to be his personal servant.
It was a post for someone of higher standing, but there was no arguing with his royal highness. At first he watched her with curious eyes, laughing when she spilled his tea or dropped his freshly cleaned trousers on the floor. It started with friendly teasing, just enough to set her at ease. And then, one day, he gave her a pair of trousers to men...and asked her to sit.
"Yes, in that chair if we're going into specifics."
"You want me to mend them...here?"
"In your chambers?"
"You can ask it anyway you like, love. The answer isn't going to change."
He talked while she worked, rambling about everything from his studies to his life. When he asked her questions her answers were short and to the point, but they made him grin as though she'd professed her undying love. And oh, how he tried to make her smile. "You're an odd one, Meg. Pretty, but odd. Gorgeous really, but so dreadfully strange." With a devilish smile as he used a letter opener to cut up a tunic, intent on keeping her to himself as long as he possibly could. Sometimes she grew frustrated and tired, but he always managed to make her smile again. It was confusing at best, but she did...try. She tried to keep from talking to him, from smiling, from becoming like her mother. It was no secret that he was betrothed, and even less of a secret that he was unhappy about it. He made cruel jabs at his bride, imitations that made her choke on her uncontrollable laughter. But slowly, somehow, a midst all the jokes and the teasing, Branerick became her best friend. And when she finally started to join in on their conversations, love hit her so hard she couldn't help but fall.
He was vain, but he admitted that as openly as he admitted how attracted to her he was. "We would have beautiful children, don't you think?" He would ask her, and she would shake her head with an abashed smile. "We would have bastard children, Bran." This would make him grin. "Pretty little bastard babies. Sounds good, doesn't it? It sounds good to me."
"I'm sure it does."
"Megara, will you have my beautiful bastard children?"
"Of course not."
"Then, pray tell, would you at least let me check to see if your stockings need to be mended?"
"You're so pretty when you talk."
"You're so much prettier when you keep your mouth shut."
"What an intelligent observation."
Was she shocked, when he pulled her out of her chair and threw her over his shoulder? Yes, but not as shocked as when he threw her down on the bed and kissed her hard. Not as surprised as she was when she liked it, and not nearly as surprised as she was when she let him toss her dress onto the floor.
Being in love Bran lead to all of the surprises in her life. It was not short lived, nor shallow. He held her her close, he told her his darkest secrets, and he told her how desperately he wanted to marry her instead. It was not a secret, as such things should have been, but gossip spread like wildfire. And yet, he never stopped to blink. He loved her blindly, passionately, and she trusted him with every ounce of her soul.
But he turned on her like milk left in the sun to spoil.
She let it slip one night while he held her, the abomination that ran through her veins. Quietly, casually, for his secrets were so much worse. Or, so it seemed. One minute he loved her, and the next he was pulling her out of bed, forcing her clothes into her hands. "You bewitched me. I knew it. I knew you'd done something." Meg was almost to stunned to speak, pulling on her clothes as he paced wildly, madly. "Bran, it's not like that."
"Then what is it, Meg? What is it like?"
"It's just...bad blood. It's not my fault."
"Witchcraft is the work of the devil, Megara."
"I...I'm not...it's just the tiniest bit of magic, Bran. You have to understand."
"And all this time, I thought I loved you! Inviting you to sleep in my bed, begging you to have my children. I knew I must have been mad, but I never..."
"No. Bran, no! Look at me!" She tried to take his face in her hands, but he pushed her off. "Don't touch me! I...I trusted you!"
"And I trusted you! You said you loved me! No matter what! This is..."
"A curse. You've cursed me. Of course. I should have known, shouldn't I? The way I think about you...constantly...I can't stop..."
"That's love! That's because we're in love!"
"Don't. Don't you dare."
"Get out, Meg."
"No! You have to listen to me!"
"I am your ruler, and I am ordering you to leave my chambers."
"And I'm your best friend!" She sobbed, pressing her hand to her heart. "And you're mine! And you...you know it, Bran! You know it!"
But he didn't. Not anymore.
"Don't make me call the guards, Meg."
"Do it. Call them. I'm not leaving until you listen to me."
She'd thought they would fight, as they had a few times before. A round of bickering followed by apologies and a long embrace. But this lovers spat ended with irons on her wrist, and a cold order from the love of her life.
"Take her to the dungeons."
"What for, Sire?"
"No..." And like her breathless denial, her heart could not accept the idea that Branerick would ever let her burn.
It took days for him to make up his mind, leaving her with nothing but scraps of bread and water in a dark cell, deep in the belly of the castle. She could not breathe, she could not think, and in her mind she half expected him to come and apologize. But it was a pair of guards who came to get her, with a blindfold and a length of rope to bind her hands behind her back. She was thrown over a horse by rough hands, and taken on a long ride through the icy air without so much as a cloak to shield her from the wind. When they finally took off the blindfold she saw the ledge of rock on which she was standing, along with a dark expanse of icy water rushing below. Her breathing ragged, she turned back around to see Bran, dark hair glistening in the moonlight. He was dressed in his armor, a sword in his hand. The guard that had removed her blindfold forced her to her knees.
Her voice cut through the wind, and tiny flecks of snow had begun to dance around them. But Meg? Meg couldn't feel anything but the pain in her heart. "I can't live under your spell, Megara." He told her bluntly. His grip adjusted on the sword, and his eyes were cold and hard. Hers were already streaming with tears. "You know I wouldn't..." she whispered, but he cut her off. "I don't know you at all." he told her, voice angry and violent. Meg shook her head quickly. "Of course you do. Of course you do! You...you know that I won't use a thimble, no matter how many times I cut myself. You know I only put jam on half of my toast. You know that I can't sleep without holding your hand. And I know you, Bran. I know you love your horse more than your father. I know that you cried when your grandmother died. I know that you-,"
"I've brought you here because of the hard work you and your mother have provided under the employment of my family."
"Bran you have to listen to me."
"I'm here because this cruel curse you've put me under makes it impossible for me to burn you at the stake, as you may well deserve."
"You're going to...kill me? Bran? You would kill me?"
"There was little point in bringing a priest, considering you've already sold your soul."
"Bran, it's me. It's Meg. It's me. You wouldn't kill me."
"I'll make it as quick and painless as I can, but the law is the law."
It was only as his blade leveled with her neck, taking aim, that she truly began to sob. "I loved you!" she yelled, though it was an accusation. "I trusted you!"
Bran hesitated, face full of rage and emotion. "And I trusted you! What did I get for it? A curse! You've betrayed me! You've betrayed your country!"
"This is the only way to free myself!"
"Then do it." Her voice was low, cold, though tears rolled hot and fast down her pale cheeks as the snow began to make a dusting on his broad shoulders. "Do it. And when you still love me, you can live with my blood on your hands. When you're all alone, when you realize that no one will ever care for you like I did, know that you murdered your best friend because you were stupid enough to think that love was some sort of dark magic. And know that I hated you for it."
For a moment, Bran hesitated. His expression faltered and his eyes widened, looking down at her with confusion and turmoil. "It's witchcraft, sire. The demon is trying to trick you!" one of the guards yelled, and Meg felt every bit of her hope melt like the snow as it hit Bran's reddened face. "Bran..." But he was quick, so quick she could do little but gasp as the blade plunged in, and then out of her chest. Blood poured from the wound, hot and fast, like dark wine out of a barrel. "Witch." he hissed, blade gleaming with gore in the moonlight. The word was a curse, an affirmation of his hatred for everything she was. She couldn't breathe. When a cough escaped her, it sprayed blood across the grass, and the pain started to spread across her chest.
"I hope you live long enough to drown." He told her, before slamming his boot into the wound he'd just created. A short scream finally escaped her, as she fell back and the ground disappeared. Instead there was only a long fall, the rush of wind in her ears, and then agony rushing up to surround her. The water was icy, dark, drowning out the world, pulling her down deep. She could not struggle, nor breath, nor taste the coppery hint of blood on her lips. There was nothing but the sharp sting of a thousand knives, all over her body...and the agony of a gaping hole in her chest.
Beyond the dense, thick and dark woodland that separated the kingdom of men and what laid beyond, a solitary bell rang. No other sounds were heard immediately, yet within seconds the entire hold was alive with animation. An elderly man ran up the steps, followed closely by two younger men, all dressed in the same brown tunics and furs. The bell ringer continued his movements until he was finally heard.
"By Yafé, what are you ringing that for?" The elderly man snapped, storming his way up to the young man who'd called for attention. "We don't ring for bears, boy. Nor do we ring for food-"
"I felt something, sir. In the trees. Like something had been hurt." The young boy explained. Quickly, each of the three men let their faces drop.
"What exactly did you feel?"
"I don't know, magic I think. I felt screaming in my ears." Within seconds, the elderly man had turned around and stared down the stairs. The young Boy, a Forest Orphan by name, was left confused and dazed as the three men hurried back down the stone stairs.
More than a rides day away, the capital city, Gaul, was bustling with life. The Midsummer night had arrived and as always, festivities were held. Men laid with woman and men alike, woman the same. The whole city was alive in respect, remembrance and love. Everyone but the King. High above the city, the King sat in his castle, surrounded by the sounds of pleasure. Instead of joining in, however, he merely watched, vaguely unhappy with the entire scene. A darker skinned female stood slowly and placed herself at the King's feet, watching him. Her blue eyes shined, large and full, tongue dancing over painted red lips. The King smile, slowly standing up. His finger pulled the sheelf up by the chin, all the while he was smiling. With an almighty clap, he slapped the girl across the face. The court and nobles who always made their presence know, gasped in shock. Despite the action, the King pulled the elf close and planted his lips on hers.
"My lord!" A voice rang out. A man walked in through the large white doors and seemed almost immune to the sights on either side of him. Such was a lie. The man, a King's Guard, a Knight, had no place in sex or marriage; ignoring was the best way. "My lord!" He shouted again.
"What is it?" The King snapped. He noticed the man and growled. "This better be important, brother. King's Guard or not, I'll have your head."
"If Elsa saw your actions now."
"Elsa is my wife and I am the King, only my opinion matters."
"Which is why you're King and I'm not." The Knight smiled. He bowed lightly and handed over the letter he was carrying.
The two men were different only in height, personality and age. Leviathan, the younger brother, the Knight by trade was fairer than his brother, despite their similarities. The King was a darker fellow, perhaps due to his crippling personality that had drawn them into more battles than any other ruler. Leviathan was sensible and kinder, however neither were the loving Rulers the kingdom of Elves had once come across. After a moment's reading, the King frowned.
"Travel to the Fourth Hold, take some of the men with you." The King murmured, pocketing the letter quietly. Leviathan was left to simply rally some other knights and travel east towards the Forest hold.
The elderly man gathered a small band together, each armed and covered in their usual armour.
"We have reason to suspect something has been hurt in the Forest. I believe it may have been a satyr or a unicorn from Dunland. What they are doing in there is beyond me, but you must find the creature and return it here as soon as possible." With a wave of his hand, forty men, varying in age and stature, dashed into the wood, making easy work of the roots and low branches. The uneven flooring had been their terrain for so long, any of the Forest Guards, or Orphans as they were named by the people of the land. As each of them disappeared, each travelling in their own direction, one elf remained on his own path. He travelled quick, taking a days journey in a few hours. He saw the woodland slowly start to break away, indicating the end of his territory. Beyond the treeline laid the land of men. His people held no power there.
He drew up to the treeline and looked out into the darkness. It was only under the moonlight that he noticed the unnatural colour of the ground. Stained red in places. He crept out of the undergrowth and drew his knife just incase. His feet carried carefully over the dead and troubled ground. He could definitely feel something in the air. He drew closer to the lake and took in the colour of the water. He dropped his knife and threw off his bow. A quick displacement of his armour and he dived into the lake. It hit him hard. The icy waters were not a temperature he was used to. He panicked for a moment, not daring to open his eyes. He did so slowly and quickly he spotted a figure drifting in the darkness. He took hold and swam upwards.
Only after pulling himself and the satyr onto the ground, did he realise the being wasnt a satyr but a human. He noticed the wound and tried to understand. A witch? They hadn't burnt her. He pulled off his coat and draped it around her shoulders, whilst he searched through his bag for the salve and moss he needed to fix the wound. It wouldn't be a complete fix, but it would stop the bleeding before it started again. He rested above the body and ripped a hole in the dress of the girl. He pulled out enough salve to cover the wound, and with steady fingers, he kneaded the moss onto the skin. Perhaps this was the scream that had been heard. The elf finished and waited. No way would she die. Not when magic was at stake.
Unknown to most humans, the elvish people had found a religion, one based on truths and stories. Witches had played a key part in the final stories, and now he stood in the presence of one. Should she die, he would have failed his gods and people.
There were no dreams in death. When it was water and blood and filled your lungs, there was neither warmth nor fantasy in sleep. Nothing but the cold water sang in her ears, and the warm embrace of her mother never did find her in those final moments. Perhaps, she wondered, it was because her mother truly had gone to hell. But then, how could a heathen like herself possibly get into heaven? It was not a thought that lasted long, as the lack of oxygen made her head light and her body heavy. Soon there was nothing but blackness, and Megara lost consciousness for what she was sure was the last time. There was no panic, no struggle, no fight for air or last attempt for the surface. Hell or not, she was relieved when it was finally over. The pain in her heart, physical and emotional, slipped away like her soul from her body...
Or so she'd hoped.
Though she was entirely limp when he'd pulled her from the water, it didn't take long for her to stir. Any human would have been long dead, drowned or wasted from blood loss in the time it took him to find her. Though her pale skin was only pale with a tinge of blue in her lips, there should have been frostbite in her fingers and ice in her hair. But the icy grip of death was not strong enough to pull her under, and the moment her sodden back hit the ground water poured from her blue lips. His jacket blocked some of the icy wind, but it could not take the chill from her bones. Cold; there was nothing but the cold, the pain in her chest, and the fact that she might never breath again. More water was forced from her lungs with a weak cough, eyes peeking open to catch a glimpse of the forest canopy above her.
For a moment, everything was far away. The air came, the cold forced her to tremble, but her mind was somewhere else. Even as he tore open her dress, working over her, Meg saw a different scene behind closed eyes. She was still on the ground, still soaking wet and filled with agony, but the handful of grass she found was Branerick's hand in hers. He'd come back for her. Cruel as he might have been, ruthless in words and actions, he'd realized that she hadn't put him under a spell. He'd dove back into that icy water like the Bran she knew, and dragged her to shore with apologies pouring from his lips. Meg swore she could feel his hot tears trickle down her cheeks...though, perhaps they were her own? Oh, but he was so sorry. She hadn't been wrong about him, nor the undying love that was between him. But the pain was so intense, her heart so utterly broken, and she had to ask.
"How...could you...how-," But her words were cut off. Someone had taken a red hot poker and shoved it into the gaping hole in her chest. The pain was white, blinding, blocking out everything but the pressure and heat in her wound. There was a horrible scream in her ears, perhaps from someone who had seen what they'd done. There should have been screams on that hilltop; there should have been someone to scream for her, when he'd skewered her like a piece of meat on his sword. Only as the pain ebbed from unbearable to excruciating did she realize, with the burn of her throat, that it had been her screams that filled the night air. Someone....had touched her. Someone had dug their fingers into her wound.
Panicked, pulled into consciousness by the pain, her hand shot out and hit the strong chest of whomever loomed above her. Limbs like lead, she had to grip his tunic to keep her arm raised, wet hands ringing the sodden fabric as her eyes opened to the world. It was dark, but something told her that sunrise would be drawing near. The forest was eerily silent, and the sound of her own ragged breathing disrupted the still air. A whimper escaped her; how could it not, with the wound in her chest so fresh and full of agony? Wide blue eyes roamed the face looming over hers; perhaps the fairest she'd ever seen. But this...this was not the face she'd been sure hovered before her own. This was not Bran. He had left her, hadn't he? He'd left her to die.
No, he couldn't have. "Where is..." but there was no one else, not even a horse to wait on the sidelines. "No! No, no, no..." It could not be the two of them, her and this fair faced stranger. He would have realized there was no curse. He would have dove into that water to pull her out. She knew him, she knew Bran, and he never would have left her to drown. Meg's face contorted with agony, both physical and emotional. No matter what she believed, no matter what she felt, Bran had put a sword in her chest. Bran had been the one to push her over the edge. Bran hadn't come back to save her...
"You should have...let me...die..." she gasped, struggling to breathe against the pain in her chest. "Should have left me...should have..." but it hurt so much to breathe, so much to talk. Through teary eyes, she looked back up at her saviour, wondering how a face could be so beautiful. And then it hit her, like the icy water after such a long fall...
The man watched, silently hoping and praying. The others were looking for something stronger, or at least something magical in appearance and nature. He took a selection of wrappings and offered it over. He wasnt fully sure on the reaction of the girl before him, nor did he expect her to come with open arms. He stayed silent and felt himself frown, creases appearing by his mouth and along his forehead. He leaned over and propped his pack beneath her.
"You're safe now." With slow movements, he showed her the wrappings and gently wrapped it around her, caring not to touch her skin; it wasnt him place or his job. "No, I couldn't." She wouldn't understand, not in her state. "I can take you back to my people, you'll be safe. They can treat this." He shivered slightly in his drenched tunic and trousers, although it wouldn't compare to how quickly she would freeze to death without the thick fur for warmth.
Standing, the elf claimed his armour once more and pulled it about him. A careful moment of evaluation and he returned to her.
"Can you walk?" It was a stupid question, she was in no state to walk. He knelt back down beside her and sighed. They could always wait until sunrise, have the Forest heat them up as they walked. No doubt, he'd be carrying her. He glanced over at her and patiently awaited her response to his comments and questions. "You'll die without medical help. It's a miracle you're not dead already. Something was certainly intent on keeping you alive."
Leviathan bowed once more and made his way back out the door. The guards and nobles who were entering and leaving the castle parted quickly. He stood out in the vivid white and good armour, a colour of purpose; however not the colours of his house. He jogged down the Two Hundred Steps that separated the White Castle walls from the city below whose streets were red with passion and littered with roses, flowers and other lustful gestures. He jogged down the stairs faster, ignoring the cries of those few nobles he trusted and cared for. Instead he would ride East and celebrate in the only way the King's Guard could: by the sword. Upon entering, the knights were to take a blood oath, swearing solid fealty to the King and no other, they would take no wife, heir no children and never sway from their cause. It was a great honor but the heaviest of burdens.
The youngest of the Dullahan brothers continued his pace down towards the barracks and stables. Whatever it was, it clearly was important. He slipped through the crowds that gathered outside the temple and joined two of the men who were keeping watch over the priests and pilgrims.
"Jovah, Silna." The two men smiled and nodded, partially surprised to see their Captain on such a day.
"What brings you down here?" Jovah smiled. As he did, the scar that spanned across his face widened, giving him an ever eerie look. He had possibly once been fair and attractive but war had no been kind, instead it had turned and tortured his features. Silna, however, was the picture of a warrior most men pictured. He was strong, taller, handsome and beyond popular amoungst the ladies despite their disappointment.
"Were riding to the Forth." Levi replied. All three men dropped their tones, unsure of exactly what that meant. "They heard something last night. Suspecting Satyrs from Dunland again."
"Dunland is all but destroyed." Silna commented, stepping closer to Leviathan.
"It will regain strength and Reginas won't help us this time. No without leverage." Both guards sighed, annoyed and tired. Their campaign with Dunland had recently ended; no one wanted to go back. Slowly, the left their posts and followed Levi through the crowds. They would ride East and hopefully reach the hold before evening the next day.
"Here." The elf smiled, passing his hand down to Megara. He would carry her reguardless. "You're safe, I can assure you." He meant her no harm, not this day. He smiled lightly and waited. With a faint smile and a sigh, he retrieved his pack. If he didn't act soon, she would die. Carefully, the elf scooped her up, making sure as to not damage the binding that simply helped keep the blood inside whilst they travelled. With an uneasy step forwards, he started back into the trees.
Time passed slowly, icy cold clothes sticking to him as they walked. It was painful enough, yet the more he moved, the greater the pain his armour caused.
"You're lucky to still be alive." He commented, speaking only to ease his own pain. They had hours of travelling to pass and he could not do it without something to take his mind away from the dull pain that grew with each step. Instead, he continued to talk, comforting Megara in the only way he knew. He talked about his people and his home. His friends and the cities he had seen.
Before long, he had to rest. The elf placed her down on the ground again and collapsed against a tree. His armour had dug deep into his skin, chaffing away and causing severely sore patches on his shoulders and back. He winced and pulled the armour away, tossing it onto the ground. He'd be disciplined for it, but the pain was just too great. After a moments rest, he stood once more. Judging by the leaves and breeds of the trees, they were not far from home. He picked Megara up once more and started walking.
As predicted, the elf passed through the edge of the tree line and stumbled towards the large, grey stone for that housed two hundred men. Within seconds, two other men appeared, whilst others disappeared to find help. The elf passed Megara over before collapsing against a wall. Megara would be safe now. He knew that.
Last edited by thedookienut; 10-05-2013 at 10:15 PM.
Safe. Didn't he understand? She was as far from safe as she'd ever been. There was safety in love, safety in Bran's arms. There was even safety in death, far away from the harsh pain that came with reality. At least in death, she could escape the horrible images flashing before her eyes. It was like waking up from a nightmare, unable to shake the fear as you drifted off to sleep and fell right back into the horrendous dream. Over and over again, Bran's last words rang in her ears. He'd hoped she would drown....and this, surely this was what he'd wanted as well? For her to be wrenched from her watery grave, pulled onto land, touched by an elf. She'd been raised to believe that they were an unclean and malicious as any creature could be.
Granted, it was hard to believe it with his gentle hands and reassuring words after humans had run a blade through her chest.
He asked her if she could walk, but the pain was far intense to let her form a proper sentence. Instead she gave him an incredulous, exhausted sort of look. Walk? Even if she could, she wouldn't. If he'd understood, he would have left her there. If he'd known what she'd just seen, he might have rolled her back into the water. If he'd had any sense of how much it hurt....but he'd said he couldn't. And if he couldn't have left her, surely he couldn't understand. There was little point in arguing when the strength it would cost her would only take them in the same pointless loop again and again. As for what had been keeping her alive?
It had followed her throughout her entire life, had it not? One thing after another, with the tiniest bursts of happiness in between. Just enough good to help her distinguish from the bad, but no sort of happiness could live when Meg was near. It withered and died, killed by her magic no doubt. She could do little but wince as he removed his back from beneath her, but a cry of agony through gritted teeth rang through the still air when he lifted her from the ground. It made her stomach roll with nausea, the pain in her chest. She should have been dead. Humans were not made to live through such pain, and she cursed whatever supernatural circumstances were keeping her bound to the earth.
There was no comfort in his hard armor as it pressed against her weak, shivering form. She held her breath against the pain that came with every jostling step, trying to focus on the words of the heathen that carried her. It should have been more terrible, to be touched by an elf. But after they stopped to rest, and he removed the heavy armor, she couldn't help but find relief in his strong chest. Though she'd been taught that elves were terrible abominations, his solid frame was her only comfort as she began to drift in and out of consciousness. But after a stretch of blackness that could have lasted minute or hours, she woke up to a different scene. Someone had stolen her dress. While her body was warm, hair miraculously dry, she was stark naked, surrounded by...men. Well, they were elves, but they were men. It was the burning in her chest that had woken her, a painful sensation in the wound, hidden beneath two pale hands. Though they were healers, Meg was hardly smart enough to sit still and accept the help. Instead she thrashed, suddenly, violently, and the healer pulled away in surprise. Blood began to pour from the wound again, and strong hands held her down as she tried desperately to cover herself. There was a fair bit of yelling, though most of it came from her own lips. Accusations of perversion, violation of privacy, a fair bit about heathens and indecency. But a fine mist that smelled like flowers was sprayed directly into her nose and mouth, and despite how she tried to fight it, she was quickly pulled back under the dark currents of unconsciousness.
Her next awakening was far more pleasant. The chill in her bones and pain in her chest were gone completely, though a lazy hand ran over the wound would find it had healed in a thin white scar between her breasts. Though her own sodden clothes were still missing, someone had had the sense to replace them with a beige gown of gossamer, soft on her skin beneath the equally silky blankets that covered her. It was such a safe place she hardly wanted to open her eyes, but as her fingers trailed the scar, she was reminded of the night before. Bran's hateful gaze was burned into her eyelids, so she forced them open to escape their powerful glare. No, the pain in her chest had not disappeared...it was just of the sort that even elves could not heal.
A tall, lithe man with hair a similar shade to her own was standing next to her. "Be easy, we mean you no harm." It was not their harm she feared. Elves were painted to be much more gruesome creatures, from the tale that mortal men told from battle. But these elves...they were the ones from her mother's stories. In fact, Meg would not have been surprised to find she had fallen into a dream. "I wanted to apologize. You were not meant to wake while we were-," "Violating me?" Her words sounded dead, void of rage, no matter how she tried. She sounded weak. The elves eyes widened. "We had to get you out of those wet clothes; surely you understand. The cold can be very dangerous this time of year." But Meg had shut her eyes, shaking her head slowly. How degrading. It was as though they wanted to take every scrap of pride she had left. "You were calling for someone in your sleep." The man told her, eyes full of concern. "Was he in the river as well? We have not received any reason to believe-,"
"No." Meg cut him off quickly, the knife in her chest wrenching sharply at the thought of Branerik. "No, he was not in the river."
"Was he traveling with you? Was he injured?"
"No." she told the elf, yet again. This time her voice was soft, low, full of emotions. "He was the one who pushed me in."
After a hard day and night's ride, the three men, each clad in pearly white steels and mithril, arrived at the Forth Hold. Leviathan dismounted, his usual demeaner and attitude apparent in his walk. He may have not been in the white walls of his home but he walked with such grace. The Forest Guard's stumbled back, scurrying about their duties like mice around a cat, like rabbits around a lion. Jovah followed him close and pointed him towards the main hall within the hold. They entered a busy scene, men laughing and eating, enjoying the song sung by a younger male, barely fifteen summers in age.
"Ser Dullahan, my lord. I didnt expect you in person." One of the captains smiled, standing up from his chair. "Come now, you must be weary, pull up a seat and drink."
"I have no need for mead."
"And of your-"
"My men have no need for mead. Tell me why it is you requested by brother's immediate attention." He snapped, barking down at the man dressed entirely in brown. Reger stood, bowing a bow of mockery and insult.
"This way, my lord."
The four of them walked, heading down the hallways and down into the healing chambers. There were several rooms, one of which was occupied by Megara. He was guided quietly into her room, glancing between the man and the injured girl before them both. He didn't fully understand. Not at first. He walked closer, raising an eyebrow at the girl. The man had a remarkable resemblance to the elf who'd rescued her from the icy lake, yet Leviathan's eyes were lighter, as was his skin and his hair. He bowed briefly, showing respect for something he barely understood.
"My lady, I am Ser Leviathan of House Dullahan, brother and guard of Eddard Dullahan, King of all Sungra." He glanced over to the two men behind him, both of which had just followed suit. "May I ask you a question?" He barely gave her time to respond before continuing. "Why do you think you've been brought here?" He watched her gently, taking a moment to ask the other elf a question. "Who is it that brought her here?"
Less as than two rooms away, the elf from the lake stirred. His arms were sore and so we his legs, chainmail stood hard into his back. He shuffled from his bed and pulled on a tunic shirt. He was unaware of the presence of the King's Guard within the next room. Using the wall for support, he stretched his legs and stumbled into the room were Megara laid. His actions that opened the door caused the three knights to look back, each shocked and bewildered.
"Brother?" He stammered, glancing over at Megara. Leviathan sneered and growled.
"You are not my brother, you are a half blood bastard. Son of a Khelisai Sun Queen. That does no make you my brother."
"That does not explain why you are here." The smaller elf answered, glancing up at his King's Guard brother.
"I was summoned."
"You answer to Marbella now?"
"I answer to my King, my own brother."
"He is my brother too."
"No, Roran, he is not your brother. Your ties with our family died when my father did.
The elf did not press her for details, for which she was grateful. Instead he rambled on about her health; explaining that they had sealed the wound in her chest with magic of their own sort. Somehow, she'd already known. Not because wounds of that sort didn't heal over in a fortnight, but because she could feel the warm tingle of it in her fingers as she ran them along the scar. Magic. How could something she hated so much ease her pain? How could elves, these nightmarish creatures, be so kind and beautiful in person? But then, these were tiny problems, trivial compared to the real trouble in her life. Branerik. It was impossible not to hate him for what he'd done; but it was even more impossible to block out the heartache he'd left her with. These things happened, she'd known better than anyone. Her entire childhood had been spent watching the many loves of her mother's life scorn her, promising herself that she would never stoop so low.
But it was different, when you were caught up in the emotion. The risks seemed worth it, and the idea that your love would ever plunge a blade into your chest? Impossible. The Bran she knew would have never hurt her. But then, the Meg he'd known was an innocent servant girl, void of all unnatural abilities. If she'd been him, and he her, she might have believed that he'd put her under a spell. But would she have stabbed him? Would she have taken him into the forest to die? Meg was so lost in thought she hardly heard the elf asking her if she wanted to sit up. After a moment of hesitation, she nodded, letting him help her into a sitting position so he could arrange pillows behind her back. Her body felt tired, beaten, heavy...as though the water still clung to her clothing. But the physical agony had all but disappeared, save for that knife in her heart no magic spell could vanish.
The healer set about to make her some sort of fragrant smelling tea, while she watched the fire dance and cast its light upon the stone walls. She should have been worrying about her situation, her future, trying to make sense of it all. Instead, she was remembering the way Bran used to admire her in that flickering light from the hearth. Needless to say, she jumped visibly when three men in armor charged into the room. Her first thought was that they had come to throw her out, or behead her on the spot as elves often did humans. After all, she her kind wasn't any more welcome among the elves than they were among men. The fear in her expression melted to surprise as they bowed to a mere maid. Worse, a witch. But then, there shouldn't have been fear at all, if she'd really wanted to die so badly.
The man began to speak, throwing out unfamiliar names that meant little to the auburn haired girl who was propped up in the bed. For a moment the elves eyes were gentle, though his question was one that seemed of little importance. What did it matter, what she thought? They'd dragged her out of the river, they'd healed her, they knew why she was there. Had it...had it been him? Was he her saviour? While his features were familiar, they weren't quite what she remembered from the night before. And as another man stumbled into the room, similar but distinctly different, she realized it was he who was her saviour. Like spoiled children, the two seemingly peaceful being began to bicker viciously over bloodline and title. The names were foreign, the spat meant nothing, and quite frankly she was exhausted watching them.
"He brought me here." She said tiredly, pointing to her saviour. Was she throwing him to the dogs, so to speak? What did it matter, really? If he'd wanted her to hold her tongue, he should have left her lungs full of water. "I don't know why. You can ask him."
Both men looked over to Megara when she spoke. Roran, who stood a head shorter than his brother and certainly a lot thinner, stepped a little closer and partially placed himself between his brother and her. Meg was safe, no matter how they looked at it. Witches weren't hurt here, however she was human and that fact hung highly above her head. The elder brother sighed a little and waited for some form of explanation, only to receive one he hadn't expected.
"She was the source of the noise one of the Watch heard." Roran stepped tenderly around the subject, knowing full well the outcome. "I believe she's one of the Nine."
"Khelisai myths are no more than stories." Leviathan snapped.
"Marbella and the Sun Queen are one and the same, you know that."
Roran an tried his hardest not to shout. Megara was still healing and the last thing they needed was a hostile atmosphere. He watched his brother, glaring behind dark eyes. The flames of the hearth danced gently on his armour, reflecting the light gently around the room. Neither of the men spoke for a moment, burning hate standing between them. It was the scorn of every bastard child on the continent.
"You're saying one of the Nine, Marbella's Nine?" Jovah asked, stepping out of the quiet and into the light. "By Yafé, do you have any idea of what that means?" The elderly man's face was almost bright with delight and excitement. "She'll need to be in the White City before Summer's End." He smiled widely at her and bowed once more, deeper and with respect. Leviathan's face turned, glaring down at his brother and at Megara.
"You have two hours." He spat at Meg.
"Ill take her." Roran added, defending her from something he suspected to be terrible. "I will ask the Measter for leave."
"You're needed here. You have no place in the City."
"I will take her. Eddard will need you." Roran defended once more. He waited through tense anger once more before his brother turned and stormed from the room. Soon enough Roran slouched, resting against the bed post. She owed him her life again.
"You're raking in quite the debt. By brother would have killed you." He said with a smile, as if the whole thing barely mattered. Of course for him it barely did. He turned to poke the fire, turning it and twisting it around. He have another short sigh and rested one hand on the wall. He would have a lot to answer to. "Dress, we have to ride soon." He bowed again before disappearing out the door. He'd answer her questions later; there was a whole days ride ahead of them.
It was yet another strange exchange from the creatures she did not quite understand. Her body was tired, as well as her mind, and the argument at her beside was as exhausting as it was confusing. Her rescuer stepped between her and the newcomer, and Meg got the sense that it was a very good reason. She sat bolt upright, tense and rigid, listening...though it hardly mattered that she did. One of the nine? What on earth did that mean? And who was Marbella? The older man seemed thrilled about it, bowing to her as though she'd suddenly become a queen.
Meg shied away from him, as though he'd lost his mind.
Pieces of it started to fit together. The two were brothers, which explained why she'd mistaken the angry one for her rescuer when first they had met. And...they seemed to want to take her somewhere. She had no real interest in travel. To be honest, she would have been content to fall asleep and never wake up. Her own misery weighed on her shoulders like a heavy dress made of icy metal. It would have been idea to have something to distract her, but travel was not what she had hoped for. A mindless chore, perhaps, or a pretty view. Something with privacy in case the torrent of tears found her again.
Instead, it sounded as though she were about to be thrown on a horse. In all honesty, she'd never had much experience with the creatures, led alone ridden one. Meg understood the idea, and that the large animals made an obscene amount of bodily waste, but she'd never had a reason to climb on their back. When he said that she owed him her life, her eyes widened in surprise. THAT had been a death threat? These elves were strange indeed. But then, a debt was the wrong word for what was building between them. He continued to intervene with fate...fate that seemed to intent on taking her to her grave.
"I never asked you to stop him." she said, half to herself after he'd left the room. "What's that, m'lady?" The elderly healer asked her, laying out a dress of deep blue and making for the door so she could change in private. Meg shook her head quickly, staring at the dress with empty eyes. "Nothing." She changed carefully, slowly, resting on the edge of the bed until he came to take her away.
Which the three knights riding back towards the Capital later that afternoon, he had the chance of slipping Megara away from the fort without his knowing. The road would have been living hell for her had she gone with him. Roran travelled back to his room and rested for a moment. One of the Nine.. He'd check with the priests and maybe even take her to the Golden Sands, the Khelisai kingdoms to the west. She'd be safer there. If she was indeed one of the Nine then they'd need to reread the prophecy in Marbella's Temple. With all the excitement, Roran threw his belongings into his pack and stopped to eye up the very small number of things he could truly call his own. He wrapped his sword about his waist and pulled the deep brown cloak over his shoulders. He wasnt as regal of his brother in his uniform, but at least his family were true. The King's Guard may have served the King but whoever paid them best got their true loyalty.
Standing tall, Roran travelled back down the halls towards Megara's room. He had been gone an hour roughly and she may have grown worried; who knew with humans. He knocked lightly and waited. During his journey down, he'd collected furs for her and clothes. She'd freeze before they reached the Capital. He paused before allowing himself entry. He waited at the foot of her bed and placed down the clothes.
"I'll wait outside." He stammered, making his way back towards the door. "You should hurry." He added before pulling the door closed. Roran would wait five minutes before going inside. If she needed help, no doubt the healers would help. It wasnt his place after all. He tapped gently on the floor and ran through his plan once more. Temple. Prophecy. Golden Sands. Sun Queen. If things were true then they needed more than the Gods on their side. They'd need a whole army.
Roran waited patiently before knocking gently on the door.
"You okay in there?" He asked, pushing the door open with his eyes closed. He didn't need to see anything. "I can call for help if you need it." Braving to open his eyes, Roran smiled to find her dressed. "Here. You'll need them." He motioned back to the furs and waited again. "You'll freeze without them." He added. The trip was going to be at least a full day, perhaps even too. The horses here were not Capital breed and neither were they living a luxurious life.
Roran adjusted his pack and his sword, all the while keeping an eye on Megara. He held the door open and waited. Once she was through, he gave a heavy sigh and walked along the hall with her. There was a clear air of discomfort and anxiety between them, perhaps it could have even been from her. With a exhale of breath, he passed her a smile and walked down the first set of stairs that led them towards the stables. No doubt the Meister would have been informed of everything, he wouldn't need to request duty to leave.
As they arrived in the stables, he hurried down to two of the fort's quickest horses; in such parts of the world, strength was valued over speed. He tucked some belongings into the bags and looked back at the witch.
"I can help." He offered her his hand and waited by a grey mare.
((Apologising for delay and shortness!))
Last edited by thedookienut; 10-16-2013 at 10:49 AM.