Story by The Nimrodellian Tale-Spinner
Far away, Mericc stared outside the cave at the same landscape his elvish friend was looking at with a dwindling sense of hope. The Guardian could see no way of leaving the cave without risking not only his life, but now the life of a young woman whom he felt obligated to protect. He felt far too weak to make such a journey even by himself and somehow getting her through it as well seemed impossible no matter how he tried to figure it.
She stood at his side and a little behind now, every once in a while her beautiful blue eyes giving Mericc a look of both admiration and worry that unsettled the warrior with how they made him feel. But her eyes were not the worst or best part, that was reserved for whenever her hand would stray to his shoulder, or her body would gently brush up against his side.
At those times Mericc would feel this rush of heat and warmth that would temporarily banish the terrible feelings of cold and weakness that would return as soon as she stopped touching him, breaking down his discipline and making it difficult for him to think straight. He tried to maintain his composure. Courage and clear thought were what mattered now even though he couldn’t help himself from time to time, wishing for her to touch him again and relieve him from the unnatural weariness that drained his very spirit of it’s potency.
Briana noticed the warrior’s flagging resolve, knew that the essence and life-force she was giving back to him was doing its’ damage and decided that now was the time to make her move. Feigning exhaustion, the sorceress’s legs went slack and she fell towards the icy cold ground.
The warrior, noticing the movement from the corner of his eye, caught Briana in his arms, stopping her fall. The now familiar warming flooded Mericc’s body and as he picked her back up she threw her arms around his neck and began to sob.
Mericc did his best to keep his head straight as she poured out her feelings of loneliness and despair, the endless nights in this unforgiving land, the realization that she was probably going to perish there and the sudden hope she felt now that he had arrived to save her. He did his best to console her, told her that he would find a way to get them both out although internally he was at a loss for how. She gave him a radiant smile and thanked him and then before Mericc knew it, she pressed herself closer to him, wrapping her arms around his neck tighter, bringing her beautiful face close to his.
Mericc checked her as best he could, fighting the urge to keep her close, to feel the warmth emanating from her that kept back the cold. He had to maintain discipline, something was not right about this, and he had to figure it out before doing something rash.
But still she came on, whispering in his ear to relieve the loneliness she had been feeling, to lie down and banish the freezing cold with their bodies. A sense of growing unease grew within the warrior’s breast as she tugged at the undershirt that he wore under his armor and then it struck him, something that had bothered him earlier but been pushed to the side by the appearance of the girl and their predicament. All other feelings were quickly put aside and his soldier’s discipline and good sense took hold in a flash.
Where were his armor and weapon? Internally he cursed himself for his foolishness. He had noticed it when he had awoken but the pain in the back of his neck made it impossible for him to look around to see where they had gone. He pulled a surprised Briana away from him and questioned her about his missing equipment. How could he be so careless and stupid? How could he have let a girl, no matter lovely, make him forget years of training and experience.
Briana was taken aback and a bit flustered that her attempt to seduce the warrior had failed and made up something about his armor being lost in the storm, but Mericc was unconvinced. Forgetting the girl, forgetting the wave of unnatural weariness of spirit and cold that he began to feel now that he was no longer in contact with the maiden, he began to search the cave more closely.
He found it very unlikely that the spirits that attacked him could or would pull him out of his armor after defeating him and wondered why Briana would make up such an obvious lie. The armor had to be here somewhere, perhaps he would take a closer look at the strange runes towards the back of the cave, past the stone altar.
But before he could make it very far, he felt Briana’s hand on top of his shoulder and then a cold so shockingly bitter that it drove all thought and memory out of his mind.
Briana stood over the fallen warrior, an evil smirk crossing a face that no longer seemed quite so helpless or radiant. The momentary anger she had felt when her first attempt to seduce the man subsided and she prepared to continue on with her designs to completely break the man’s spirit.
The more she thought about it, the more she was glad that her first attempt had failed, it showed just how strong her captive was and hinted at how strong a child born of him might be. This did mean that she would have to drain him a little more, but she felt confident that he would be able to survive. The trick was to keep just enough of his essence inside to keep him alive without killing him or robbing him of all memory and spirit.
Rolling up her arms to prepare a fresh set of incantations, Briana decided to risk probing around the warriors mind to see if she could find something to exploit to her advantage. It was dangerous digging around someone’s mind, the risk of damaging it beyond repair was great and if you were not careful, you might leave the victim a useless vegetable even if you manage to find something. And Briana had to keep the warrior alive.
What followed the next day was a seemingly endless series of nightmares and dream-states for the warrior Mericc as the Winter Witch plunged deeper into his subconscious mind. Over and over Briana would dig into his thoughts, create illusory scenarios, and attempt to break his spirit.
She would take the shapes of old flames, beautiful woman, elvish maidens, and then play out different scenes, trying to find a weak spot in Mericc’s internal armor. And every time she would fail she would put him under, drain him of more of his life essence and probe once again into his inner thoughts. But still he resisted, even as every bone in his body was drained to the dregs of all willpower and self determination, he always managed to break the spell and push back the sorceresses’ advances.
Rage started to build up inside Briana’s frozen heart, mixed with a sense of desperation and frustration. She had expected the man to resist, in fact was glad of it because it showed a strong inner core that would serve her dark designs well, but she didn’t expect him to hold out this long. She found herself at a loss for what to do.
She had drained him of almost all energy, too drain him of any more would more than likely kill him. Already the amount she had taken would have slain lesser men a long time ago, leaving them an empty husk, one more body buried in these unforgiving mountains. She had delved into every corner of his memory, looking for anyone and anything that would help to seduce the indomitable guardian before her, but nothing had worked.
She looked down at a wickedly curved dagger she had laid on the altar beside Mericc and wondered if she should just cut her losses and end his life right now. She had gained more than enough heat and energy from him to last her for some time and it was not like there would be no others to play out her dark thoughts on. But Briana shook her head, one more attempt she thought, and if that failed she would end it, and with it end Mericc as well. She rolled up the sleeves once more, muttered incantations and pried once more into Mericc’s head.