(( This is a joint effort between Jehanne and Adriellyn. ))
The thin, slanted sunlight shone down in the bazaar, causing the auctioneers' hall in the middle of the plaza to cast long shadows across the cobblestones. A stray wrapping from some confection blew across the shadows, attracting the gaze of a bored succubus. The motions of the light-coloured object across the darkly dappled stones reminded her of skipping stones across the lake - until one of the animated brooms of the city caught up with the litter and swept it away.
Frowning in a moment's irritation, the demon looked back to her summoner, gauging the blood elf's mood. The white mane was coming loose from its coiffure, trailing tendrils in the breeze, and Jendria was doing nothing about it, standing in the square with her shoulders drooping. The glowing green eyes were not really focussed on the bench in front of her, nor on the curtains of the inn beyond. To Dislia's practised eye, the sin'dorei looked thoroughly dejected, and close to tears.
The succubus crossed behind Dree to stand a bit ahead of and to the left of her, facing her obliquely. Pretending to examine her nails, she let a hoof clop against the stones a bit more loudly than necessary to be sure she had the blood elf's attention. "Mistress, I've been thinking."
Jendria's attention snapped onto the sayaad. "Yes?"
For a moment, the succubus wondered whether the elf had any idea how unnerving that much focussed regard from her could be, but she pushed that thought aside. "She enjoyed her time with us too much, I think, to disappear from us like this on her own. I don't think we're looking for where she's gone." Watching the barest hint of reaction on Dree's face, Dislia raised her hand and tapped the base of her left horn with the talon of her index finger. "I think we're looking for where she's being kept."
Jendria briefly frowned, showing a hint of anger, then gave a heavy sigh. Pursing her lips in thought, she looked around, then nodded slowly. "She told us she waited too long... maybe she really wasn't as stable as she seemed... in any case, it's another thing to try." With another sigh and a shake of her head, she started walking toward the guards at the archway, commenting to the demon as she passed, "Even after over a week of searching, I dearly hope you're wrong... but then, so do you." The succubus pivoted on her hoof and strode after her mistress, flaring her wings briefly to provide balance and a start to her stride.
Renek Skysinger descended the stairs, cursing to himself for leaving the bees wax at home again. The low moans and high pitched shrieks echoed up the stairwell. He winced, the tips of his sharp elven ears wiggling. He stopped, and searched through the pockets of his robes, hoping he had not been so forgetful that morning. Empty. He sighed and continued downstairs, carrying his register under his arm.
The moans, shrieks, and doleful yammering flooded his ears as he entered the long hallway of cells. For months, the magisters had been sending him wretched: those elves that had given in to their arcane addiction. When the wretched first started appearing after the invasion, the magisters had the mad, desiccated elves rounded up and executed, deeming them too dangerous to remain alive. However, recently factions within Silvermoon began petitioning the court, arguing that they should be saved rather than killed. Skysinger was not surprised by this. It would be only a matter of time before parent would recognize child; sibling recognize sibling; and master recognize apprentice. So many had died when the Scourge invaded, saving anyone of the wretched would count as a victory.
The problem, though, came down to what to do with them. Alchemists tried to cure the wretched’s addiction through a variety of elixirs and balms; priests and blood knights tried to infuse their shattered bodies with the Light; and the magisters tried feeding them arcane energy to slake their endless hunger. All failed. So they sent them here, to the asylum, in hopes that the doctors could cure them through mental discipline. Skysinger warned them that a psychological cure for the wretched’s condition was farfetched. Their whole physiology had been warped by the addiction; their minds nothing but a gaping maw. Still, he took them in, and did what he could, which mainly came down to keeping them from hurting themselves.
Skysinger walked down the hallway, passing rows of cells closed by the invisible force walls. The wretched huddled in their cells, moaning, rocking, and pulling at their hair. A few, seeing Skysinger, rushed up to the force wall and slammed their bodies into it. “Hungry, feed,” they screamed in their loathsome voices. Skysinger kept his eyes focused on the floor in front of him. He did not want to see them clawing at the force walls, pressing their faces against it. He did not want to see his failure.
Skysinger stopped at the final cell at the end of the hallway. Inside, a pale elf sat cross-legged, a blue dragonhawk curled around her neck. Despite her snarled hair and darting eyes, she was no wretched. A few days ago, the city guards found her standing in the middle of the market, crying and clawing at her face. When they tried to shoo her off, she let loose with a blast of freezing air, nearly killing one of the guards. “She’s a mage, and a crazy one it seems,” the guards said when they presented her to Skysinger at the gate of the asylum. Skysinger had to admit he was pleased they brought her to him. For the first time in a long time he would have a chance to really treat someone.
Skysinger pressed the panel on the side of the elf’s cell, and the force wall collapsed with a flat hum. She did not look up as he crossed into the cell, but continued pulling at the loose strings dangling from the sleeve of her tattered blue robes. “Good morning, how are we doing today?” he asked as he opened the leather bound register.
“Noisy,” the elf said, carefully pulling a long string from her sleeve.
“Yes, yes it is,” he said, thumbing through the register. “What are you doing?”
“Weaving,” she said, pulling at each syllable like she did the string.
“Really? Doesn’t look like it. Looks more like unweaving.”
“Same thing,” she said with a sharp nod.
“Oh?” he said. Skysinger came to the pages he was looking for and started pacing around her, reading. “According to our records, or what’s left of them, your name is Lothwenna Malnuviel. You were a magistrix of the city once, and then a teacher and tutor in Dalaran. And, interesting, it seems you’ve been here before.” He blinked, and double checked the writings. “Five hundred years ago? How is that possible?” He closed the register and knelt down by the elf. “Why were you here before? Can you remember?”
The elf stopped pulling at the string, and looked up at him. Her eyes shifted from blue, to green, and back again. “Remembering, remembering is why I am here.”
Skysinger shut the register and crouched down next to her. He watched her long, slim fingers unwind the sting into separate strands. “What do you remember?”
Lothwenna pinched one of the strands and pulled at it, drawing it out further from the sleeve. “Everything.”
“What do you mean everything?” he asked, sitting down. He noticed the elf’s skin glistened and her robes stuck moist to her frame as if she had just walked out of a lake. A small puddle of water pooled under her bare feet.
She looked sharply at him, “I remember being sea sick on the white ships. Vomiting over the side into the ocean. Took months to get my sea legs. I remember seeing Tirisfal on the horizon and the first boats landing on the shore. Everything smelt new…and old.”
Skysinger blinked, “White ships? Tirisfal? You’ve been reading too many of the old histories.”
“History to you,” she said, a little indignantly. “Amani beheaded my second husband in the war, raped my son. First time I used magic to kill.”
Skysinger shook his head, “Impossible, there is no one left from those days, we do not live so long.”
“I am left; I am always left behind,” she said, and pulled at the strand hard, breaking it.
Skysinger stared at her a moment, regretting denying her words so strongly. Not that he believed that she had been on the Great Crossing or fought in the Troll Wars. He had made an amateur’s mistake; to refute a fantasy often only reinforces it. He would have to have to let her talk it out and see what images she returns to, interpret the trauma from there. This history was a shield, against what he need discover.
“I am sorry, lady Malnuviel, obviously you are long lived,” he said smiling to her. “I would like to hear more of your story.”
She pinched another strand and pulled at it, “Too much, too much, too much.” She stopped and looked up past Skysinger. “I have visitors. Yes, I would like to see them.”
“What?” he said confused. Almost immediately the muffled sound of the front gate’s bell rung echoed down the hall. He stood up, watching her a moment. “I will be right back.”
“Please do, doctor. You have a kind face.”
The anteroom to the asylum showed signs of wear in the carpets, tapestries, and seats. The minimal staff seemed disinterested, perhaps too inured to the plight of their inmates. Jendria and Dislia traded a look, not showing their thoughts to the workers - but they were hoping they were in the wrong place. After a wait, during which both the visitors and the receptionists pretended to be unaware of each other, the inner door opened. The beleaguered doctor emerged, his ears twitching in relief as the door closed again.
Skysinger schooled himself against rolling his eyes at his need to tap his secretary on the shoulder in order to drag her attention away from the succubus. With a start, she handed him the ornate calling card. He winced inwardly, wondering just why a ranking noble of Silvermoon had to descend upon him on a day when his senses had already been assaulted by the din of the wretched. Giving her the precise bow of a professional not in her service, he murmured, "Your grace."
Eyeing the exchange between the physician and his underling, Jendria allowed herself to relax a little. At his acknowledgement, she gave him a smile and returned his bow with the nod appropriate to a favoured member of the professional class. "Doctor Skysinger. A pleasure."
The doctor returned the smile, unsure just how genuine the pleasure was, and even less sure that he wanted to know. "What brings you to this humble establishment, your grace?"
To his surprise, it was the succubus who answered him in flawless Thalassian. "We're told you recently took in an arcanist. We're looking for one who might need your services. Her name is Lothwenna Malnuviel. Might she be in your care?"
Skysinger couldn't help but show his surprise as he looked between the duchess and the demon. He nodded cautiously. "She is."
Jendria nodded. "We are friends of hers." Before the confused doctor could fully take that in, Dislia added, "We'd like to see her, please."
The physician paused to collect his thoughts, then nodded to them. "If you're sure you're prepared for her condition," he paused, unsure what honorific was appropriate for the succubus, and took a guess. "M'lady, your grace?" At their firm nods, he shrugged slightly and waved them in to the business half of the room. "It gets noisy in there, what with the wretched."
The visitors nodded as Jendria produced some wax from the folds of her robes. "We were warned of that by the guards, doctor, but thank you." She handed some of it to Dislia, then broke bits off for her own ears.
Skysinger gave a weary nod as he turned toward the inner door, now even more annoyed with himself for not having his own wax when the visitors were prepared. Just as he was about to open the door, he stopped in surprise with the succubus's hand laid gently on his shoulder. He turned to look, and saw the demon offering him some beeswax, proffered in her other hand. With as gracious a nod as he could manage under the circumstances, he thanked her and stopped up his own ears.
The trio entered into the asylum proper, and Skysinger led the visitors down the hall, returning to the last cell.
The blue dragonhawk whelp curled around Lothwenna's neck chirped, and nuzzled the elf's cheek. She looked up from the strands and smiled to Dree and Dislia. "I knew you'd come, still waiting was hard. Hello Lady Duskweaver, hello Dislia. I've missed you both very much. I'm sorry you must see me in this state. I cannot help it, though." She sniffed the air, blinked. "Humans. Hmmm, been down south a lot I take it?"
Dislia smiled warmly at Lothwenna. "How could we not come? Well, once we figured out where."
Jendria nodded, letting the succubus speak first. She used the time to consider how she could word things in front of the physician. "I'm afraid a lot of travel has been my lot of late. Some to the south, some to the north, and even to the Outland. I'm sorry that kept us from finding you sooner." She sighed softly. "And I'm sorry to find you here... though at least we've found you. That's better than what I was beginning to fear."
"I'm an old elf, and don't die easily," she said with a smirk. She stood up, bare feet splashing a bit in the puddle. She stepped to the succubus and hugged her long, and kissed her cheek. Her skin and lips felt moist and chill. "I've missed swimming with you."
The succubus returned the hug and smiled. "I've missed you, as well."
She stepped back from Disila, gazing at her a bit, then turned and took Dree's hand. "And I'm sorry to have worried you..." She looked her friend up and down, "You seem very different...sad. Something is eating at you."
Jendria nodded, smiling as well at the greeting with Dislia. When her own turn came, she gave Lothwenna's hand a gentle squeeze, then smiled wryly at the observation. "Indeed, many things are. One is just how long I seem to have let an old friend go without my checking up on her." She tilted her head, eyeing the older woman again. "I had hoped you were done with... well, from what I now know; I'll guess is being overwhelmed with memories. Are you still remembering too much?"
Dislia paced about, frowning at the conditions. Her wings rustled as she looked and listened, clopping about. Skysinger stepped back a ways to make more room, uncomfortable with the closeness to the demon.
Lothwenna watched the succubus for a moment then turned back to Dree. “Please, do not feel guilty for being away. I know you’ve had good reason.” She frowned and looked past Dree at Skysinger. “Doctor? Could we have a little privacy please. I know I am mad, but I promise you I will not hurt these two. I would never do so.”
Skysinger looked at the elf for a moment, his ears twitching. “How do I know I can trust you? Especially after what you did to those guards.”
Lothwenna looked at him hard. “I swear by my name.”
He sighed a bit, “That used to mean something.”
“It still does to a mage,” she said, her expression hard.
He slowly backed out of the cell, and turned the force wall back on. “Very well; remember there are remote viewers here. Just in case.”
“How could I forget?” she said winking at the doctor as he left.
She turned back to Dree, her expression softening. “As to your question, yes, the memories have become overwhelming. When they found me I thought I was fighting in the Troll Wars again.” She shook her head, smirking. “And then Scourge in Ambermill. Time just keeps twisting and turning. My head feels like it will burst some days. Not the worst of it though.”
Jendria relaxed a little at Skysinger's departure, listening to Lothwenna's comments. She pursed her lips and tilted her head, not quite sure whether she should ask. “Not the worst of it? What is, then?”
Lothwenna turned from her, looking at the southwest side of the cell. She stared hard at the wall, as if trying to see something far beyond it. “I've been here before you know....the first time it happened. It baffled the doctors even then. Other 'elders' didn't seem to have this problem...not forgetting. I nearly tore my face off, living days over and over again. And then, suddenly, my mind seemed to find a way to compress them, just enough for me to stay...” She chuckled, “Sane. They let me out, not knowing exactly what had happened. I kept doing that, when the memories accumulated, stuffing them into some dark corner of my brain.” She sighed, and looked at her hands. A droplet of water quivered on the end of an index finger. “Now I can't seem to do that anymore. I'm full. I feel broken, like some damned gnomish machine.”
Dree nodded at the explanation, while a small corner of her mind followed Dislia's progress in examining the cell. At hearing the word 'broken', she moved up behind the other sin'dorei, being sure to make just enough noise in doing so to keep it from being a surprise. The succubus turned to watch protectively as her mistress reached out to offer their friend her arms. “Jehanne told me you remembered too well. I'm finally beginning to understand what she meant.”
Lothwenna froze a bit at the name, bowing her head. “When the change came this last time, I was for once willing to accept it. I was hoping to forget her.”
Sighing softly, Jendria nodded slowly, starting to feel defeated. “I'm sorry to hear that. She certainly hasn't forgotten you, and was hoping to get some advice from you. If you'd rather not be involved, though....”
The elf turned away from the wall and looked to her. “Please, Dree, do not take that in the wrong way. You know she was far more to me than just an apprentice. I loved her...” She smiles, “I'm glad she remembers me, fondly I hope.” She steps closer to Dree, taking her hands again. “Now, what advice do you seek?”
With a faintly embarrassed smile, the sorceress nodded. “I know you did... and she remembers you very fondly. Enough so that it troubles her at times, given that she's married now.” She shrugged one shoulder slightly. “However, she's hoping that you'll know more than she does about the old texts you found... that taught her blood magic, and the bindings of her demons.” Sighing, she frowned in a brief grimace. “She's having trouble keeping their anger separate from her own feelings... she's afraid that she's losing control of herself, and especially of her emotions.”
Lothwenna nodded slowly, her brow furrowing, “I warned her about this, but she wouldn't listen. Not that I blame her, anything not to turn into Scourge. I would have probably done the same.” She lets go of Dree's hands and paces the cell. “That's part of the reason the Kirin Tor banned blood binding. I was there when a prominent invoker experimented with it. He ended up killing his apprentice....and his wife.”
Jendria nodded slowly through a heavy sigh. “That sort of thing is, I believe, exactly what she fears. She was hoping you'd know more about how it works... ways for her to adjust or otherwise to avoid that.” She tilted her head, the subtle signs in the pitch of her ears and brows showing a mix of anxiety and hope.
The mage studied Jendria a bit, “Well, Jehanne would know more about the subtleties of this method than I. As I recall, Avmella told me she had refined the blood magic in her own peculiar way." She frowned a bit, "Mapping the bindings on her body...Hmmm, why would she let it get so out of control? Seems like something's missing. Dree? Did anything happen to Jehanne? Anything that might explain her loss of control?”
The sorceress blinked, considering for a moment. “Many things have happened to her... and for some, I have no firm grasp on the details.” Her head tilted to one side as something occurred to her. “It seems that her demons can possess her now... yet I've only seen signs that this happens for her benefit. It's as though her bindings are drawing in the worst parts to her, rather than handling the emotions in a better way.” She shrugged. “Or I could be under-informed there, as well... I do know that she seems to have attracted the personal enmity of a dreadlord. This is probably related - but once again, I don't have enough details.” She sighed, shaking her head in frustration.
Lothwenna froze at the word 'dreadlord', and shivered, “My dear little Anney.....oh, what have you done.....” She stumbled a bit, and sank to her knees, her robes squishing a bit from dampness. “Possession you say? By their own accord?”
Both visitors started to move to support the mage, but the succubus got there first. With a nod, Jendria sighed. “I believe some level of ... incapacity on her part is required. I heard of it because she was frozen in place - by frost magic that is - and suddenly Thoodhun, her felguard, was there to protect her. He had been, she told me, ‘on the other side of the world.’”
She flinched a bit at the succubus's touch. She covered her face with her hand, and dug her nails into her forehead, drawing blood. Her mouth bent down a grimace of sorrow. Her body shook with a deep sob, then she mumbled to herself, “Can't do that, no, too far, what now, far and near, the tower to the north, four years....almost.” Lothwenna frantically brushed tears from her cheeks, “Damn it. Drifting again, sorry.” She reached out for Dislia, her eyes shifting between blue and green.
Jendria settled against the wall lightly, nodding, as the succubus reached out again to offer Lothwenna her comfort and support. Dree smiled a bit, and half-shrugged. “I wasn't really going anywhere, anyway... I'll deal with the drifting. You're doing better than I'd had reason to hope when we finally tracked down what had happened to you, anyway.”
Lothwenna let Dislia help her up. She gave the succubus a hug, “Sorry. For the past few weeks I've been reliving the Troll Wars....and my first days in Dalaran, sitting at the fountain watching the workers finishing the citadel...” She shrugged, smiling to both of them, “It's easier to focus when you're here. Always was.” She put her hands on her hips and clicked her tongue, thinking. “As for those possessions, it's lucky she seems to have found demons that have her interests at heart. Hmmm, still they shouldn't be able to do that, not without permission, or some contingency spell allowing for it. I wonder, she may have lost it, cannot see how, but it's possible.”
The visitors smiled to the mage. The demon stayed close to provide a comforting presence. Dree nodded with a heavy sigh. “I don't think she's actually lost it yet... Hmm. She did say something about needing to bind new demons. The ones she has now were picked for her by her previous ones or at least by the previous sayaad... and I don't know the story behind why. I don't want to assume that two things I don't understand are automatically related, however.”
Lothwenna chuckled a bit, shaking her head, “I'm sorry, I was being unclear.” She approached Dree and softly touched her forehead with her fingers. “I can see her work on you, over your heart. I think she may have lost hers.”
The sorceress shook her head with a soft chuckle. “Ah. I see.” Her head tilted as she considered that for a moment. “That may indeed be related, then... re-doing all her bindings sounds like a time when such a work could be lost. It's something to me to suggest to her, at least... and then also to ask about, now that my curiosity on the whole reason for re-binding has been tickled.”
The mage nodded, looking at her, “Hmm, you must have been an adorable child.” She smiles, “Tell, me, when you were little, did you mother conduct a naming ritual with you?”
Jendria blinked in surprise, then slowly shook her head. “Er, thank you... and if she did, I wasn't aware of it.”
Lothwenna giggled, "Didn't mean to put you off. Hmm, that's not surprising though, it's a very human thing, though one I happen to agree with. In Dalaran, when a child is born it's usually assumed he or she will have some sort of talent with magic. A few days after the birth, the mother whispers a word in the babe's ear. The child's name. Human mages, especially those attached to Dalaran, have two names. Their public one, the one they know, and their secret name, the one sits in their heart.”
Dree nodded, then blinked again as something clicked. “She told Wendy - uh, Naddie's daughter - to hold onto that memory crystal from you. She said it knows something about her that she herself does not... and that Wendy should do what she can to get it to tell Jehanne who she is if she should get completely out of control....” Her look at the other woman was a mixture of speculation and curiosity.
Lothwenna smiled at her. "I was there when Dionne named her. Human babies are wrinkled, smelly, bawling little things. I was annoyed by it,” she said, laughing. “But I heard it, yes. I did not think to put it in the crystal, still my voice would command some respect. Good idea to think of that contingency.”
Dislia chuckled at the description of human babies while her mistress gave an amused smile. The sorceress nodded with a soft sigh at the subsequent statements. “Ah. So it would not be so thorough a way to stop her as might be hoped, but at least it could help.” She exchanged a look with the succubus as they conferred through their bond. “So, she may have lost her focusing glyph... probably when she wound up with new companions... Oh! She has made other comments to me that seemed rather obscure, but Dis thinks are relevant... Jehanne's new companions may be correlated with a time when she says she died... and no, I have no details.” She sighs. “Sometimes trying to keep my curiosity in check isn't really the right thing to do after all.”
The elf smiled, “Sometimes is it good to go with your instincts. Magic users are supposed to be curious.” She tapped her chin, thinking. “Died you say." She frowned, "Poor, Anney. I wish life would be kinder to her. Hmm, well a trauma like that...it's quite possible she lost her heart, and knowing her she tried to recreate it. She can't though, not fully.”
The sorceress nodded slowly. “That could, indeed, account for much...” She trailed off into a sigh. “That's not good news, of course, but it's something to discuss with her.” She sighed again, her head tilting as she conferred silently with Dislia again. “Is there anything we can do for you?”
Lothwenna nodded, “Yes, yes there is. Actually it's more for Jehanne.” She cupped her hands together and started whispering in a strange, split voice. A cloud of frost whirled on her palms, condensing into an azure stone. She offered it to Dree. “Her secret name. You can refuse, Jendria, if you want. Such a thing is a burden to carry, and you seem to carry many burdens.”
Dislia flared her wings momentarily with an annoyed snort. Her mistress gave a sad, wry smile, and nodded. She opened her robe far enough to show the Navarre pin she had affixed through the skin on the left side of her chest. “She has made me her sister. For all that she meant that for my protection, my own honour as the House Duskweaver makes something else out of it. Yes, you ask me to add a burden - but it's one that allows me to discharge a portion of debt.” She puts her robes back into place as she continued. “Thus, I add this burden gladly.” She produced a strip of crimson silk from inside her right sleeve for wrapping the stone.
“She always wanted a sister you know...someone to conspire with,” Lothwenna said with a kind smile. “I was thankful when she was young she didn't have someone to increase her mischievousness. I'm glad she's chosen you. She didn't give you that pin solely as a matter of honor, or feeling of obligation. It was affection.” She glanced at Dislia, then back to Dree. “And I didn't mean to slight your strength, but you know as well as I the power of words, of names. In the end that is all magic is. You will carry the framework of her soul in your hands, as I have. It's not easy.” She handed Dree the stone, and kissed her cheek, “Thank you.”
Jendria nodded as she wrapped the stone in the silk, tying it in securely. “Indeed... she would not have offered any of what she has to me without that affection, I know.” She placed the knotted package in a pouch inside her sleeve. “And yes, the burden is not a simple one, nor one I take lightly... but still gladly, for all that. This being sisters now... is mutual.” She smiles warmly.
The succubus folds her wings in as she steps in closer again. “Hrm. This one does make you straighter, rather than bending you more. I suppose you're right to take it after all.”
The sorceress chuckles softly, acknowledging the implied apology with a nod.
Lothwenna smiled at that both of them, though her mixed eyes were sad. “Thank you for coming to see me. I've missed both of you a great deal. I cannot promise I'll be here if and when you return.”
The visitors blinked and turned to face their friend almost as one. “What do you mean?” came the concerned plea from Dislia.
Dree nodded to the question, then softly added. "When, and soon."
Tears gathered in her eyes, she shook her head slowly. "I'm an old elf. Too old. There's no one of my kind left, and the few I was acquainted with always knew when the end was. I think I've lived too long."
The succubus croaked out an “Oh, no!” before stopping herself.
Jendria sighed heavily, nodding sadly. “I respect you too much to argue that with you... but we will be back soon, just in case. You matter too much to us for us not to make that effort, despite the other obligations we now have to meet.”
Lothwenna nodded slowly, and hugged Dree. “You better go, this calm is breaking. I'd rather you remember me like this. And please, take care of yourself.”
Jendria returned the hug, nodding, a hint of moisture starting to show in her eyes. “Always.”
The mage let go and turned to Dislia, halting a moment. “Oh, what the fel,” she mumbled and took the succubus's hand, drawing her close. She gave her a long lingering kiss, caressing her cheek with light fingers. She drew back a little. “I do wish we had more time, dear. To skip rocks and such,” she said with a wink.
Giving a bittersweet smile in return, the demon nodded. “I wish we had much more time - for many things.” She folded her wings in close, nodding to her mistress, who turned and signaled the watcher behind the monitoring crystal.
Skysinger returned to the cell, looking a little taken back. He eyed Lothwenna queerly, but decided against commenting. “I trust you ladies are ready to go?” He opened the force wall, but stayed in the hall.
“I promised Lady Jendria, I will take care of her.”
With a slow, deep sigh, Jendria nodded, and stepped out into the hallway with Dislia. They turned to face their friend. The elf said, “We hope to see you again soon.” The demon nodded her agreement, her lip quivering slightly, before a snapping of her wings turned her toward the exit.
Lothwenna watched them leave through the blue haze of the force wall. Time washed over her, knocking her to the ground. She shook, trying to lift herself. A burst of pain erupted behind her eyes. She looked around, and the cell walls had fallen away. She knelt in a green field, the Alteracs towering in the distance. A mage -- stocky and brown skinned -- smiled down upon a little girl who twirled a primrose in her fingers. “Now try again, Jehanne. And be careful.”
The girl nodded, focusing her black eyes on the flower. She whispered and small flame danced on the petals. She smiled, laughing, “I did it!”
The man laughed long and hard then patted her head, “You're my daughter, of course you could.”
The field shifted: grass withering brown, trees scorching. It was night, and the crescent moon hung over her. A Quel'Dorei in torn battle robes led a group of apprentices down the darkened road toward a line of pine trees in the distance. “Faster, faster, we can't let them catch up.” The girl was there again, but grown, a woman now. She turned back, looking at the flare of red pulsing over the horizon. “Daddy?” she whispered, her bottom lip quivering. The elf grabbed her, “Come on!”
The crackle of flames and distant screams drowned in the sound of crashing waves. She knelt on a shore, a few small boats bobbing on the waves. A blue-skinned elf stood before her. A Quel'Dorei, no, not her kind: an old one, a Highborne. “I was wondering when I'd finally get to speak to you again.” He reached out his hand to Lothwenna, helping her to her feet.
She blinked, confused. She didn't remember this. “Where am I?”
“At the vanishing point. Come we have no time to lose. We go west.” he said with a kind yet stern smile.
She nodded slowly, trusting him for some reason, “Yes, west. West is good.” She waded out into the sea, her body feeling liquid and light.
The elf lifted her into the boat. “West is always good,” he said, and hopped in beside her.
Skysinger led his visitors back out to the reception area. Before he had made up his mind what to say to them, the noble turned to him.
“Doctor - she claims to know that her time is nigh. I know her too well to bet against her.” She ignored his incredulity, producing a heavy purse from within the sleeves of her robe. “This should suffice to look after either better upkeep for her, or suitable preservation and care of her remains if she's right. Either way, I shall return within a few days at most. I shall not require an accounting of the cost - only of her condition. I know all too well the conditions are not your fault, sir, so let us not mince words on that score. Until we meet again.”
The increasing stiffness of her demeanour and the anguished look on the face of the succubus dissuaded him from any protest or further conversation as the pair swept out.
Skysinger watched them leave, the purse heavy in his hand. He shrugged, happy for the help, but still confused. He returned to his office and put the purse into a chest by his desk. The doctor glanced at the mirror monitors, and gasped. “What?” Skysinger ran to the stair well and down to the cells. Pressing his hands on force wall closing Lothwenna's cell, he stared, mouth agape. “Eternal sun....” he mumbled.
She wasn't there, just her robes. They lay soaked in a puddle of sparkling slush.