They had certainly taken their time, but Jillian knew that sooner or later, they would come for her. After reassuring himself of his friends’ well-being (at least he still had those, she thought with envy) Aemoten set into a confident march towards her position, avoiding the most badly burned patches on his way. When she spotted his movement, her eyes met his form again, and this time remained on him to see what he was doing, regardless of how much she wished herself gone from here and him away from her. At the midpoint of his brief journey to the only patch of land untouched by fire – the one on which she was seated – he brandished his sword, as if it were necessary to defend himself from her. The gesture instilled dread in her, and she feared the worst. With fearful eyes, she stared at his silvery weapon that so hideously reminded her of that decisive moment not so long ago, where a black clad inquisitor had brandished his gleaming sword and cut Vincent down in one gracious, abominable movement. The moment that had forced her to do… this. Her survival instinct and her conscience battled one another, leaving her uncertain if she should relax in silent resignation and acceptance of the punishment she has earned, or if she should give in to the primal rush of adrenaline that coursed through her frail body that compelled her to run or fight for her dear life. In the end, she decided that there was no way out of this; in the state she was in, there was no way she could hope to outrun the foreign warrior, so instead she would face him with what little dignity and stubbornness was left in her.
Not far from her he came to a halt, his visage a mask of stone that showed no sign of emotion or intention. His nonchalance appeared almost unnatural to her, and added to her already considerable discomfort. Since he made no attempt to lower himself to eye height with her, he furthermore seemed more like a statue towering above her, rather than a live human being. Slowly and gently she removed her hand from her face, probing the pain it might cause her, and put it to rest on her lap. Though the fresh wind did sting, she found it to be bearable; regretfully she had no mirror with which to take a look at her face, whose right side was notably red and where the skin was cracked along a horizontal line through which she would have bled, had the brief contact with the flames not sealed it immediately. Then, she looked up to him with a moody frown across her face, the sternness of which was lessened by the fact that the last of her recent tears could still be seen.
"Who are you, and what happened here? Why did you do this? I will know if you lie," Aemoten then finally broke the silence that had thus far encompassed the tragic scene. Just as was to be expected from a man with a face of iron, his words carried no judgment, passion or sentiment in them, but still hit her with the severity and hardness of steel.
“I don’t suppose you have a shred of cloth to spare?” she scoffed at him, “If you’re going to play tribunal with me, I’d like to at least not be in the nude, though I won’t expect that kind of mercy or decency from a man.”
She sighed and went on, “Regardless, I am a sorceress from Zerul, and I suppose you are one of the travelers that that lunatic mentioned. So what happened here?”
Her eyes lowered again as she asked herself the same question again that Aemoten had posed her. If he would hand her anything to wear on her body, she would properly thank him and accept it, if not, she would go on, ignoring the state of events and drawing her own conclusions.
“Frankly, I don’t even know. I’m going to assume that you’ve seen everything and heard everything, and since you swing that sword of yours about like a scepter, I’m not going to test my luck by telling you any obvious lies. I’ll just tell you what I know, and you let me live. So, I was travelling with a friend of mine for the past couple of weeks and we decided to use the ferry to cross the border to Anaxim. We barely set foot on this side of the shore when out of the blind, a group of armed men assault us without provocation or warning. My friend was cut down first, so I had the time to evoke a spell before the same fate would claim me. The rest… I’ll spare you of a description that I doubt you’d want to hear. Suffice to know, the magic I summoned was greater than I thought, and I lost control over it. I killed the bastards that killed Vincent, may his soul rest in peace, but unfortunately… well, you don’t see anyone left but me, do you?”
It was the first time she told the account of the tragedy at the ferry to anyone, and much to her surprise, it felt a lot easier to part with the truth than she had thought. In a way, it even felt relieving to share the story with someone, even a stranger, as it had been an immense burden to her, a burden that Brand could not take from her. On the contrary, he only added to her plight. Adamant and unyielding, the Sekalyn questioned her further:
"Have you caused any lives to end before this day? If, then on what occasion, why? Practiced mind-control on people? Anything else you would otherwise hide?"
She could not help but feel a wave of anger well up in her; he was demanding so many things, asking so many questions that did not even matter right now.
“By the gods, could you ask some more questions?!” she hissed, “What next, do you want to know if I’m still a virgin? Yes, I have killed some more since my journey began, and it’s always been in self defense. Everyone in this damned world wants to see me dead because they’re afraid and jealous of me, and I’ve been forced to defend myself time and time again! I tried to escape, leave Zerul behind because it would grant me no shelter, but look where it’s brought me! What do you expect me to do, just give up and let them slaughter me? You’re a warrior yourself, you should know all about this and, hell, you’re obviously a foreigner too so you may even know what it’s like to be persecuted. Look, I know this looks bad, and I know it is, but there was nothing I could have done. I didn’t choose to do this, I just wanted to live! Is that too much to ask?”
Although in a bit of a tantrum, there was a hint of desperation in her words, and above all, they were spoken out of pure honesty for once. Of course, she had felt a perverse rush of excitement when she saw the fatal effect of her spell, and she would never admit this to anyone – barely even to herself – but it was also true that she had earnestly not wanted it to happen. Moreover, she certainly did not mean to obliterate Vincent, who deserved to live far more than she did. It was also true that all the people that had died by her hands had challenged her first, with the exception of the civilian casualties here at the ferry which were collateral damage. The predating events and her monologue just now left her drained, and she sighed from fatigue.
“So, what will you do, stranger? Will you follow the example of everyone else and finish the job? Or will you show me the mercy I’ve been wishing for all this time?”
Whose envoy would Aemoten choose to be? Would he send her on a journey with the Wanderer, or would he grant Jillian the forgiveness of her chosen goddess?