This post is a continuation of an ongoing story between Aely and Arrens called Dark Summonings. You should read Dark Summonings, Into the Nether, and Into the Nether part 2, Hillsbrad, and Into the Nether part 3 (many of which are hosted over at Arrens’ blog) before you read this!
As the summoning’s visual disruptions faded, Arrens found himself standing in the middle of his study in Stormwind, a huge summoning circle burned into the carpet. Peering back at him, two faces: Yva Darrows, wearing an expression of clinical curiosity mixed with smug, feline satisfaction and … Aely? She cracked half a trembling smile at him, her hands white-knuckled from gripping the back of a chair.
He felt the blood drain from his face. I’m having visions. This is another vision. What is Yva doing here? How can Aely be… Arrens’ knees sagged, and he found himself supported by very familiar arms.
“‘S a’right, Love, ‘s a’right. I’ve got ye.”
Arrens looked over his shoulder and into her eyes. Her red braid swung around her shoulder.
He smiled softly and lapsed out of consciousness.
Aely let Light flow through her hands, running them carefully over the unconscious warlock.
“He’ll be all right, I suppose.” Yva sat slumped on the couch, half wrapped in one of the blankets from Aely’s makeshift bed.
“Yeh. He’s go’ a handful ay burns – one’s bad – all ‘is ribs oan one side are brused, an’… mayhap a cracked cheekbone. ‘m nervy t’ heal him too much, I dinna wan’ t’ cause some kind ay backlash.” She let some Light flow into him, slowly at first, and some of the color came back into his skin.
Satisfied that he was not about to keel over dead, she stood up and began quickly packing up her things.
“Should you travel? He’s all . . . broken.” Yva flitted her fingers in Arrens’ direction, a frown pinching at the corners of her mouth. “I didn’t summon him out so he can go and die on you NOW. I’d be rather put out.”
Aely stopped stuffing blankets in a bag long enough to shoot Yva a look, incredulity plastered all over her face.
Yva just stared back. “All right, all right. You’d be put out too.”
“If I thought he’d die oan th’ trip, I’d no’ be makin’ it. ‘m pretty sure he’ll do alright – likely t’ sleep th’ whole way. Figure I’ll take him to th’ farm in Hillsbrad. With th’ riots an’ all th’ mess wi’ Sevens, I dinna trust th’ city, an’ I dinna want th’ University disturbin’ him f’r a few days. Folk willna look f’r either ay us there. It’s a short trip by ship. I’ve got th’ barn set up t’ live in, an’ it’s warm an’ dry. An’ quiet.” She folded up another quilt and stacked it next to her bags.
“Ah. Well, I suppose you have it under control. Though how you plan to get him from the harbor in Southshore up to that farm, I’ll never know. If you’d like I could head up there with Jak and summon you both wi . . . ” Yva stopped herself, eyes skimming over Arrens’ form. “Nevermind. Summoning might be a bit of a sore subject for the nonce.”
Aely snickered involuntarily, stuffing a couple of shirts and a warm cloak into another pack. “Yeh… prob’ly no’ a wise idea. ‘sides – that very well might do ‘im in. My charger c’n carry two easily enough, an’ I’ve ridden farther wi’ folk in worse shape before. He’s no’ bleedin’, an’ no fever yet. Jus’ hope th’ weather holds.” She looked down at the small pile of belongings, and then at Arrens, lying prone on the floor.
“Yva … I…” Rather without warning she scooped the smaller woman up into a hug. “Thank ye. I dinna ken how t’ repay ye this, but I will.”
“Mmmf. You’re bloody well crushing me, woman!” Yva pulled back to smile up at her, awkwardly patting her shoulder. “You don’t owe me a damned thing. Caltrains might, though. Whatever I come up with won’t be too awful, I promise.” Her grin was enormous.
Aely booked a passage on a ship bound for Southshore without much trouble. The weather had been strangely clear for February, and with the Love Fool festival around, even the ship captains were in unusually good spirits. The Sister Evelyn wasn’t a particularly large vessel, but she was equipped to carry passengers, and made the run between Stormwind and Southshore frequently. Captain Robert Sealy happily welcomed a paladin on board, particularly since Aely promised to take a look at any injuries or illnesses sustained by the crew on their short voyage.
Josef, Captain Sealy’s son and cabin boy, helped her carry Arrens down to their leased room.
Nestled just below deck, two tiny portholes offered both light and fresh air in what would otherwise have been a dark cave of a room. Aely made up a bed on the floor, shoving a few of the thin bunk-mattresses together and covering them in the quilts she’d brought. With Josef’s help she settled Arrens down gently; he barely stirred, but his skin was warm and he didn’t seem feverish or pale.
“Thank ye, lad. I’ll need yir help likely t’ get him abovedeck when we arrive. An’ I’ll pay ye fir yir time, dinna ye fash. If ye wouldna mind, take a look in fir my charger, Maera?”
“As you will, ma’am.” Josef nodded and shut the door as he left.
Aely opened up both of the little round windows, letting the breeze and the late afternoon sunshine stream in. After a few moments she pulled one of her bags open, found a strip of woven bandages, and started to tend to the burns on Arrens’ hands and arm, humming softly to herself and speaking to him.
“Ligh’ but I hope ye dinna get seasick, Love, air this’ll be a long night.”
He mumbled softly, wincing a little as she cleaned the deep burn on his arm.
“I ken. This’s bad enough it’s like t’ hurt worse ‘fore its better too. I canna do anythin’ f’r th’ pain either, no’ with ye still asleep.” She packed the wound with a clear salve to help with healing and wrapped it with clean bandages. “That’ll need changin’ too. ‘Specially once ye start t’ get blood workin’ proper there again.” She fretted over him for awhile, still attempting to cast healing spells and being met with only mediocre success. Arrens seemed discomfited by them as well, murmuring and shrinking away in his sleep.
“I’m sorry, love. Jus’ tryin’ t’ help ye heal. Dinna ye spike a fever oan me, yeh? No’ allowed. Need t’ get ye sommat quiet, so ye c’n rest. An’ wake up. ‘specially th’ wakin’ up part.” He didn’t move. “Love? Can ye e’en hear me, where’er ye are? Hear me an’ wake up?”
Left alone in the quiet of the room, with only his pained breathing and the sound of the water on the side of the ship to fill the void of her thoughts, Aely’s resolve finally crumbled, and she wept.
The Sister Evelyn made port in Southshore Harbor around noon without event. Aely splinted a sailors’ broken fingers, healed a few minor cuts and scrapes, and gave the ship’s doctor a large bundle of herbs to make into tea for hangovers, but she had no major work other than one heavily sleeping warlock. Josef had quickly become a friend of sorts, showing her around the ship and introducing her to the crew. He poked his head in through the door, black curls sproinging out around the hat he’d crammed on his head.
“You’ll be needing help getting to town, ma’am?”
Aely smiled. “Yeh. I’ll need ye t’ bring up Maera, an’ – if ye wouldna mind – th’ two bags here tha’ I canna carry oan my back.”
“Yes’m, do you want her saddled too?”
“Please, and make sure th’ saddle sits forward enough. I’ve need t’ sit behind it, ’cause I dinna wan’ t’ dump my friend off in th’ ditch. I’ll meet ye oan th’ docks in a handful ay minutes?”
Josef nodded, picking up the two bags and trotting off down the corridor. Packing up the rest of the room took only a few minutes – Aely packed all but one of the quilts, wrapping Arrens in it instead. As they stepped out into the brisk wind on the docks, he stirred slightly, murmuring, but did not wake. Josef was there with Maera, and between the two of them they settled Arrens in for the ride.
Josef peered at the sky. “You’ve luck, ma’am. The weather’s holding. Pops says it’s like to snow tonight though. Sure you can make it?”
Aely nodded. “It’s no’ far, e’en at a walk. An’ we’ll be warm enough.” She passed him down a small handful of coins. “Thank ye fir all th’ help, lad. Tell th’ Captain I send my regards.” She turned and headed towards the road that would take them out of town. Turning at the end of the dock, she waved to Josef. He waved back, “Light go with you!”
Arrens woke with his face buried in the coarse mane of a horse. He had neither the strength nor the energy to lift his head, but he could feel it moving at a brisk walk. Settled firmly in the saddle, someone rode behind him, strong hands gently ensuring he didn’t fall off, guiding them to smooth paths and avoiding any jarring terrain. His eyes strained to open. Below the horse’s hooves dry fields passed by, with occasional patches of snow that glinted bright white and golden in the late afternoon sun. Someone behind him sang softly, and he instantly recognized Aely’s voice.
Fly we on o’er hill and dale
Spruces guard our fairytale
Hemlock branches bless and sway
Ebb and flow while ravens play
He breathed a shallow sigh of relief and lost consciousness once more.
Darkness settled in as Maera walked them through the empty fields and past what was left of Jol’s old home. The last hour’s worth of flurries finally found purchase on the cold ground, and Aely silently prayed her thanks that they had a solid shelter with a stove. The wind had died down, and the falling snow deadened the sound of Maera’s hooves. Everything was utterly still; the whole world seemed to slumber.
Snow is falling on Douglas Mountain
Putting all the bears to sleep
She smiled to herself; the childhood song seemed to fit the situation, even if Arrens was likely too far asleep to hear.
Jolly’s barn – her barn – looked just as she’d left it, windows shuttered tightly, a thick layer of snow blanketing the roof. Inside, the air was less cold and very still as she lit two lamps and fired up the heavy stove. Arrens slept, though fitfully, and Aely left him wrapped in his cloak and her quilt while she made sure Maera was settled, warm, and well fed.
Returning to Arrens, she found him stirring in his sleep, perspiration forming on his brow even in the chilled barn. Words escaped his lips, words Aely had never heard before. They didn’t sound to her like the demonic he occasionally spoke, yet the dialect had a similarity to that fel-damned language that was unsettling. Her hand on his forehead confirmed the raging fever she’d feared was coming. She quickly set water on the stove to boil, then sat herself down next to him, dampening his lips with a moist cloth and murmuring softly. “Dinna fash, love. Ye’ve taken a rough trip, but it’s a’right.” As soon as she had spoken, he appeared to settle down, though the perspiration and the occasional bouts of restlessness remained.
She checked, then rechecked the bandages on his hands and arm, again channeling small amounts of Light into the wounds with some success. The water boiled, and she made tea. Still he didn’t wake. Eventually she too fell asleep, curled next to him for the first time in weeks, hoping that, come morning, he’d have fought off the fever and the restless dream that still held him, at least mentally, in the Nether.