Why have they buried me naked?
As she opened her eyes the first thing she saw was sunlight streaming through the window. The sounds of Gulls and waves breaking on rocks made her feel sad, as it reminded her of Dalla Tyrl where she grew up. But then, of course, the afterlife would be like that wouldn’t it? Full of the things which made you feel safe and loved. Of course, Carthorm was wide, rolling plains and pleasant forests full of game, but it had to have a coast didn’t it?
There was a bronze goblet next to the bed. The covers were warm and when she tasted the water in the goblet it was cold. The air was, well, not as cold and damp as Tir Nan Og had been but it was fresher than it should have been for Alcant. She was in a chamber in a round tower. The walls and ceilings are smooth and featureless, finished in a dirty white with little adornment.
Still lying in bed, she reached out with her other senses, the first reaction of any Grey Elf – there was a trace of earthy feeling in the flows that permeated the building. She could feel a tall tower, stood on its own on a rock in the sea. It wasn’t entirely natural. She relaxed and breathed deeply. Her next supposition was that the smooth whiteness of the inside of the tower was not plaster.
Flexing slightly she found her wound had healed. There was a white scar and itching sensation but that was all normal in a wound that had nearly healed. A sudden shiver shook her body as the recollection of the fatal wounding was briefly relived. She looked at her fingernails. They weren’t that much longer which means that something – somebody, had accelerated the healing. Gritting her teeth against the pain and constant aches, she sat up.
There was a Baboon, wearing a red collar sat in the doorway, watching her. Obviously it’d been there all the time. Baboons, she knew, were extremely dangerous. They were fast, strong, potentially vicious and well equipped to kill a man. And she was only a slight girl. She knew that, given fitness and a fighting chance, she could be faster than a baboon. But she was aching, her wounds were burning, she was tired and this was a very small room with one doorway and one window. She sat still and waited for the baboon to do something. It tilted its head to one side and seemed to be considering her. Then it left.
There were clothes on the end of the bed. The calf length trousers, rear buttoning shirt and felt day coat of the ilin classes. She held up the soft grey clothes in the light of the window. They were hers. From her home. She dressed and looked out of the window. The tower was perched on a speck of rock in the sea, other small lumps building up to a landmass to the North. Dressed, her bare feet making almost no sound on the cold hard floor, she set off after the baboon, to find out where she was.
Descending the stairs she came into a hall which appeared to be much larger than her assumption of the dimensions of the tower. Which she knew meant either she was still concussed or that at least part of this building existed in another plane. Standing in the middle of the chamber to greet her was Kcasamenzay. She felt her stomach knot in fear. Kcasamenzay was her teacher in lessons that she now knew were illicit. They were harsh lessons, given by a short-tempered teacher to a sometimes less than brilliant pupil. Memories of the excitement of tapping the flows, of wielding powerful magic and the shared excitement of success were mingled with equally sharp memories of ignominy. Of mind jarring punishments and keenly felt blows.
“Welcome back to the land of the living, Forgileill.” For Kcasamenzay this was positively gushing. Her elder cousin (much elder cousin) actually looked pleased to see her. Upon hearing her name again Forgileill gave a start. Self-identity is central to the mental well being of all of the kindreds of Elves on Oerick. It was in part an opportunity for Forgileill to tell her cousin that she, as one who has now departed the parental home, would choose herself a different name. It would move her status amongst her people. She considered her relationship with Kcasamenzay for a long moment. Her cousin was an extremely powerful spell weaver. And, for all her perceived harshness, a supremely competent teacher. Forgileill had not yet finished learning what Kcasamenzay might be willing to teach. She sank down to her knees, tipping her face to the floor before lifting it up once more. A wry smile cracked the elder elf’s normally porcelain features.
Forgileill knew that Kcasamenzay knew of the process and decision that had just been made. The smile, unusual for her teacher, told Forgileill quite clearly that even if made in the pursuit of self-interest, it was a decision of which her tutor approved. It had ever been thus; if one member of her family had ever persuaded Forgileill to put herself before others, it was Kcasamenzay. As a child this had always troubled her as every other teacher had been about duty to the empire, loyalty to one’s Nostir and Clan or enlightened self-interest. Forgileill now felt that she understood this awkward dichotomy a little better.
Keeping to their existing relationship, Forgileill moved to a low stool and Kcasamenzay to a higher chair. The black-robed mistress of the eldritch arts gave her pupil a thorough explanation of events. It transpired that almost from the moment she could walk, Forgileill had been subject to a word of recall, a powerful magical contingency against the worst. The receipt of a potentially fatal wound in Tir Nan Og had activated this magic. As it was set by one of their clan’s most powerful magi, it had actually worked through the worlds and the greyness between. She had arrived at Kcasamenzay’s feet, her death rattle in her throat.
Of all the things Forgileill had ever learned from her cousin, healing was never one of them. Although it had never been discussed. Forgileill guessed that Kcasamenzay might actually been powerful enough to stop time in a localised area – this could have been used to keep her on the point of death whilst help was summoned.
Another Sindalië woman entered. Aged somewhere between Forgileill and her teacher she recognised her as Jadhrim, Carnc of Sharifika. She was another of Forgileill’s distant cousins, a descendant of the last of the High Kings of all the Elves. She looked altogether happier at seeing Forgileill up and about. Forgileill recalled, as a child, being at a solemn clan gathering and her armoured and martial looking cousin pulling faces and squeezing her hand to keep her entertained and awake whilst the clan elders droned on and on.
Again she dropped off the stool and sank to her knees. This time Jadhrim caught her up in her arms and hugged her laughing. Evidently there had been some doubt about Forgileill’s chances. But the relief was obviously tinged with further concerns. Jadhrim held her hands whilst she told of the Galadhrim who had travelled from the Vesve to here to heal Forgileill’s wounds. Of the time and care taken. But where was here? This is Kcasamenzay’s tower, Jadhrim told her, an almost secret retreat on the furthest edge of the eastern ocean. All things that come and go from here either fly or travel ‘between’ using the spiral pattern teleport mnemonic in the main hall.
Forgileill knew that Galadhrim didn’t like to leave their forest homes. Which meant that the Carnc of Sharifika had called upon their loyalty to her, to get them to come this far from their home to perform their healing spells. Favours or friendships had been called upon. But then, that was the point of being a clan, wasn’t it? Only it was imperative that one should not be a burden to one’s clan. It would take a little time for Forgileill to sort this out for herself. In the meantime, as she’d always been taught, she remained focussed and concentrated on what was going on.
Kcasamenzay interrupted their revelry. They were anxious to know where Forgileill had been and what she had been doing. Neither seemed surprised that she had absconded and she thought that she could detect something akin to pride in Jadhrim at least that she’d given her father’s agents the slip and set of herself after the werewolf. Kcasamenzay seemed especially interested in the minute of the doings of Klelkess Racoba and the sad demise of Lafe Marlow, the mage from ‘Western Immorean’. They quizzed her endlessly for detail. She had been taught from a young age to take in everything and to sift it later and thereby draw conclusions. That Torendra had some of the Immorean silver coins seemed important. They made her recite verbatim, although it seemed to take an age, the transcript of the man’s last words that she had purloined.
They were scarcely less interested in Tir Nan Og, although this seemed to Forgileill, when she reflected upon it later, to focus less on the detail available and more on the risk to herself. She recounted the tale of the harp and court of the vile King Osdann. Jadhrim admonished her never to into Osdann’s presence in her true form, as doubtless one such as he felt no need to constrain his vices. They listened intently to descriptions of the state of the other travellers.
The baboon returned, bearing fruit, way breads and quith. Forgileill ate and drank her fill whilst her cousins conferred. It transpired that the werewolf defeated was one of many now loose upon the clean face of the world. The Gwathló especially were the enemies of these foul abominations. Enemies were now hidden within the Empire. It would be as safe for Forgileill in Tir Nan Og. It would also not do at all, in the traditions of the Sindalië or the Empire, to forsake one’s comrades in arms. The ritual to send her back had already been prepared. It was probably not a done deal – but her cousins who had worked so hard to keep her alive were now going to send her back to the place which had killed her. To be safer than she would be in her childhood home.
“But we won’t send you back unprepared.” Forgileill is asked to make choice of gifts, either from Kcasamenzay or Jadhrim. She sees Jadhrim shoot Kcasamenzay a disapproving glance, as if she thinks that this is inappropriate and slightly cruel. Forgileill had to consider.
If she took the gift from Kcasamenzay then it would be some sort of magic, but doubtless one that could not be fully utilised yet. It would be something which made her more powerful. Forgileill would have to work at it but it would doubtless be worth a lot. But it would be a single gift. This was unsaid, it was an accepted fact and entirely in keeping with the way things had always been between them.
Jadhrim would provide a small collection of more prosaic items for her and her companions. As Carnc of Sharifika, Jadhrim was well used to being responsible for and leading her own ilin and jalee, the running of her own court and government. So it seemed likely that the gift would, she guessed, include war gear as well as practical things – the immediately useful which could keep them more comfortable and/or alive.