Story by The Nimrodellian Tale-Spinner
A few hundred yards away, an ice grim whirled and twisted its way through the snow and rocks and crevasses of the mountainside, making its way towards its master’s cave. The grim was famished, its hunt across the wastes of the mountains had not proven successful but maybe its Mistress would help. Perhaps she would let it dine a little on the morsel that the grim had discovered for her and sate its neverending hunger for warmth and heat.
Unbeknownst to the grim, it was being followed from behind and observed by someone, someone who was very curious about the grim and of the cavern that it now wound its way towards. The hunter stayed as far away and out of sight as he could while remaining close enough to not lose the grim in the storm.
It was a difficult thing to accomplish since the grim was almost indistiguishable from the whirling maelstrom surrounding it. Aqualondo didn’t know what he would do once he confronted the grim, but then plans and repercussions were never his strong suit and this was the only lead he had as to what might have happened to his friend.
Meanwhile, inside the cavern above, Briana continued her own explorations. She swam through waters of memory, dug tunnels into walls of instinct and discipline, and finally drifted silently through clouds of dream and longing. And there, amongst pools of desire and reget she found it, something she had never seen before nestled in spaces deep down and remote.
Not a memory or a dream, but like a vision of places and people from a previous existance that had past long ago into nothing more than faint ripples in time. And something else, something that excited the sorceress like nothing she had found yet. A smile crossed Briana’s lips and she laid her hand upon the man’s head, spoke in a tongue course and yet powerful, and entered.
Mericc stares across a strange sea and an unfamiliar land. The platform that he stands upon juts out into the water, planks creak and groan as he shifts his weight and looks around, trying to find something familiar to tell him where he is, but nothing makes any sense. He is obviously standing on a dock in a harbor, but what is this city, and what is this sea. His eyes rise to the horizon and a look of shock crosses his face. No familiar constellations greet him, the stars paint a different picture, tell different tales in the sky. But that is not what shakes him.
Where the moon should be, perfect, circular and unchanging, there lay nothing but an unholy mess. It is as if some god took a hammer in his anger and smote the moon across its side, rending it into pieces. A sound behind him shakes him from the sight and he turns to see where it originates.
A woman in dark blue robes walks down a dusty unkempt street. Long black hair half covers tanned skin and an alluring smile. She carries a staff with a mystic rune across the top and walks towards the Guardian with an easy familiar gait. Mericc feels a sense of knowing recognition, but does not know why. It is as if he is meeting someone from another life, someone he knew very well…maybe even loved. But then she turns and disappears down an alleyway and he is left with that feeling of overwhelming uncertainty.
It is cold here, uncommonly cold, a sharp wind picks up and Mericc covers his arms. A sharp pain at the back of his neck flares up and he falls to the ground in pain. His hand quickly goes to the origin of the pain, runs his fingers over what feels like a scar in the shape of a strange rune, carved right into the flesh. He tries to get up, but he suddenly finds that he cannot. A wave of unbearable weariness courses through every bone and sinew in his body, weariness like he has never felt before in his life, and then she is there.
Arms fold in around him and Mericc is lifted up into the gaze of the woman he saw earlier. A feeling of deep familiarity washes over him as he stares into a face both beautiful and strong. With one arm around his shoulders and the other by his side she helps him to his feet and begins to take him up one of the dusty streets towards a low roofed house that also strikes a chord with the weary warrior.
Mericc looks at the woman as they walk, trying to understand why she seems so familiar to him and why feelings of longing and affection rise up within his heart with each troubled step. She opens the door and they enter, and Mericc is flooded with a sense of belonging and comfort as he observes rooms and objects both unknown and yet familiar.
A painting on the wall draws his attention and he see’s himself and the woman, arm in arm, two people in perfect harmony with each other. The woman leads him over to a bed and lays him down upon it, tells him to rest himself while she finds some things to tend to him.
She returns a moment later, her movements that of someone confident and sure in their strengths and abilities but demurr and gracefull as well. She sits down besides him and begins to wipe his head with a damp cloth, following it up with a warm salve that eases the cold and weariness that permeates Mericc’s whole being. He asks her who she is and she smiles, telling him that he knows exactly who she is and that the feelings of forgetfullness would fade with time.
Mericc looks around as she tends to him and once again that feeling of place and belonging comes, even stronger than before. This is where he belongs, this is where his heart lies. She begins to speak again, telling him of their adventures, their struggles and triumphs but always together.
Something nags at the back of Mericc’s mind but it is so faint now in her presense that it goes unnoticed by him as she tells him of their eventual binding as husband and wife. And now he was back with her and everything would be wonderful again.
Mericc finds himself putting her hand in his and she lays down with him, placing her head upon his chest. He doesn’t fully understand why he does it but knows that it feels right and soon they are in a loving embrace and all of the pain and numbness and weariness is washed away as they fall into each other.
Everything feels right when suddenly a pain such as Mericc has never felt pierces him. It is so intense he screams out, his face wracked and contorted with such agony as if someone had plunged a sharpened icicle into his belly and twisted it until every muscle and nerve was frozen solid. The dream is gone, the vision shattered and….
The Ice Witch stood above the warrior, a look of triumph and horrid ecstasy etched across her face. She had finally broken him, had finally found the key, and now her evil designs were almost complete. There was one thing left to do and Briana smiled wickedly, her fingers wrapped around the hilt of the curved dagger as Mericc raised himself for what Briana knew would be the last time.
The warrior looked up with great effort, struggled to focus his overworked senses and tired bones. What he saw was not a beautiful maiden, strong female warrior or loving wife. What he saw was Briana Frost, the Ice Witch, gaunt sorceress of the mountains in all her terrible glory, saw the dagger in her hand and knew that it was meant for him.