A look of determination was on all of the Dead Hunters faces. “We’re tired.” Tanis said with a shrug. “With the portal destroyed, those foul magics will disappear. I want to know what Life is like without the reek of Death.” Broga and Morena nodded in agreement.
“Okay then.” Erinael said hesitantly. “How are we to do this?”
She slammed her fists into the stones of the fireplace. “Damn them! Damn them all!” she bellowed.
The girl had nearly been in her grasp. In the possession of slavers, yes, but those under her command would have made short work of them. Those vile, human monsters.
She despised humans. Magic-less creatures, those. And to think that one of the most Dead Hunters in existence had… Bred with one… Turned her stomach. She would have loved to have gotten hold of the girl long ago…
She composed herself, smoothing her dress. Until she saw the blood oozing from her knuckles. She sighed then and undid the ties to her dress, not wanting to rip it. The material puddled at her feet and she stepped out of it.
Her back arched as her skin began to ripple and darken. Glistening scales formed as long, sharp talons protruded from the tips of her fingers. Her spine elongated into a lashing tail as she fell to scale plated knees, a pair of night-black wings ripping from her back. She snarled, revealing sharp teeth. A crown of horns lining her hairline as black hair fell in unkempt waves.
The bruised and broken skin began to heal quickly, then, what would normally take days taking only a few minutes.
She spun on her toes, reveling in the feeling of her true form. She caught her reflection in a mirror as she twirled, golden eyes and white teeth a stark contrast to the darkness of her skin.
It used to be lighter, she remembered. A soft honey-gold. But with years of anger, resentment, and scheming, it had turned as black as her heart. She hissed at the reflection before returning to Elven-form.
Once the barrier runes had been destroyed, she would be able to fix many things.
Erinael quickly discovered why Tanis and his men had been assigned to the West. They were rather rash in their ideals, much to Broga’s discomfort.
She could almost see Broga’s mind at work as he mulled things over. Next to him, Morena sat silently. She turned to watch each person in turn as they spoke, only nodding or shaking her head in response to their words. No doubt getting flashes of possible futures as a new plan was discussed.
Finally, Broga turned to Morena. “What is it that you don’t See?” he asked quietly, already sure of the answer.
“Of all of the possibilities, the one that I cannot See the results of is when she gives herself to the Portal.” she nodded her head in Erinael’s direction.
Erinael hugged her knees. “So that’s it, then.” she murmured. “I just get to Igdrasil, and throw myself into the portal.”
She must have sounded as hollow as she felt, because Nolan grabbed her hands and squeezed them. “No, you will not. We will find some other way.” He insisted.
“What other way?” Erinael demanded, jumping up. “It seems that my life was meant to be a sacrifice from the very beginning. It just may as well be for something worthwhile.”
Nolan took her by the shoulders. “Are you even listening to yourself?” he said, shaking her. “You cannot possibly believe that is the best solution!”
“Then what is?” Erinael asked simply.
She had since walked away from them, but they still sat outside trying to figure out what to do. Erinael went into the cave and sat with Idriss, checking on his breathing and the poultices.
The prospect of what was to happen scared her. To be named as a descendant of Eraltes shocked her. And she didn’t know what to do.
So she sniffled softly to herself as she brushed away tears.
“I don’t mean to intrude.” the Mender said as she came into the chamber. “I know that this is a lot to deal with all at once.”
“I find it easier to accept that he is of Elven blood than I am.” Erinael said softly. “And of the line of Sartoris, no less.”
The Mender smiled gently. “That he is.”
“So you have a familiarity with him, then.” Erinael asked hesitantly.
“Yes. A very intimate familiarity.” The woman gently smoothed back Idriss’ hair. “He is my son.”
Erinael could only make astonished utterances at first. “Your son?” she said at last.
“Yes. My one and only child.” The woman continued to gaze down at Idriss.
“I’m sorry.” Erinael murmured. “I cannot imagine how hard this must be for you.”
“His father has been gone for many years now, and my son is the only thing that I have left of him.”
Questions burned inside of Erinael, but she kept silent.
“That’s okay.” The Mender said. “I don’t mind. It helps to talk about it.”
Erinael’s eyes widened in realization of the Mender’s abilities. “You know what I’m thinking?” she demanded.
The Mender laughed. “Yes child, I do.” she held her hands up then. “I have to actively concentrate upon doing it. It is not a passive trait, thankfully. Unlike Morena’s ability, that poor girl.”
“So did, uh, does, Idriss have any abilities?”
“He is very good at reading people. At discerning their motivations. He must have been certain of who you were when he first set eyes on you.”
Erinael flushed. “He called me stubborn…”
The Mender laughed. “A common fault of the line of Eraltes.”
“About that,” Erinael began. “If you were sworn to protect me, does that mean that you knew my parents?”
“Yes and no. I kept my distance, allowing your mother to live her own life. She never met, or saw, me until the day of your birth.”
“And my father?” Erinael breathed.
“He was not your mother’s husband, and that is all that you need to know.”