The Forests of Adrimon
The ornate hearth lit the chamber, bathing it in tones of orange and red. Somehow the crackling of the fire and it’s warmth helped reduce the creeping dread that Elrick was experiencing. It had been nearly fourteen years since he had felt the Magi's presence, and now, speaking with Arvellon, it was almost as if he could feel her again influencing his thoughts.
"Arvellon, where was I?" he said with the slightest hint of worry. She responded "Mother... I had asked about how it ended for you both." Her reply was neither aggressive nor demanding, filled only with the desire to understand.
"When I received the letter, I knew she was in grave danger. I traveled four weeks to get there- that was when I lived near the Wyld Lands. When I arrived, I could scarcely believe how different it had become. You see, I had been there only seven months before, visiting your mother." He looked into the fire and plunged deeper into his memory.
"The roads were empty and the trails had overgrown... it was as if the forest had been returned to itself. It felt dangerous, and there was this feeling in the back of my mind." He paused. "That I was being watched. That I was being led somewhere. I paid it little mind until I finally reached the city. Even before I entered I knew something was wrong." His body was tense with anxiety.
"There was no movement. I walked right through the gate, no one met me to take my name. No guards standing watch... but the city was not wholly quiet. I heard them working. The quiet thrum of whispered enchantments, all in unison. The people were changed- of one singular mind. I ducked down a corridor between an old bakery and carpenters shop just as a group of the mind-wiped approached. It was a good thing I was lighter on my feet back then, otherwise I'm sure they would have seen me. Their eyes had a haze of blue around them, and a single ghostly string, a kind of filament trailed off of them." His face turned then, pain and anguish from this memory flooding his features. It took many seconds for him to compose himself, the stream of tears falling from his eyes steady.
"She was there wasn't she?" Arvellon asked timidly. He swallowed his words and nodded. "So were you my dear, you were yet growing in her belly, but you were there too. So was your father. I spent a few days there, in that abandoned bakery. It took me some time to formulate a plan. I studied them, how they moved, watched them from the second story of the building." Breathing deeply, he looked into the fire and then turned to address the girl with as much seriousness as he could muster.
"I waited almost too long. Adrimon had been calling to me in my dreams. I didn't know this at first, but she was there, and I knew it the moment I stepped into the forest. She had been in my mind the whole time. By the fourth day I had very nearly walked right out of that bakery to join those already in the city. I remember that as clearly as anything else in my life. My hand was on that door handle and my mind was very nearly gone."
Arvellon's anguish turned to anger towards the Magi, a feeling so profound she couldn't articulate it. Elrick continued his story. "Something happened then that gave me a second chance. A small vine had wrapped itself around my arm. It had grown up from the ground, a thin coiled tendril of hope. I can't say much about what that meant, only to say that before it had touched me I was gone, and after it unwrapped itself, I was back. It never moved after, and as if waking from a dream... I could scarcely believe it had happened. But it had. Something (or someone) had helped me."
"I knew I had to act quickly. So that night I found where your mother was. It was strange, they were sleeping, but were all standing in place. She was near the back of a large group. I had only moments to spare. I had little hope that my plan would succeed, but I had to try. I couldn't imagine the world you would grow into if I had walked away, and I would surely never forgive myself if I had."
"I created a diversion then, I lit fire to one of the buildings and waited for them to react. It was a strange thing to witness, half of them woke and began to watch the flames. The other half didn’t even care. The half that woke ensured the fire would remain isolated. While they did, I managed to tie your mother to a harness, and I literally began to drag her eastward through the forest. I used a poultice to keep her sleeping, and it was so difficult, but as much as my legs wanted to quit, I knew that I couldn't let that happen. Some of them pursued us, but they moved with a mechanical slowness and I was able to outpace them. I am thankful for that. This is a dark chapter in my life young one, and there is more yet to be told..."
The firewood popped and crackled as if it were a living thing. The two sat in silence for a few moments. The girl stood, and then hugged Elrick tightly.