Fear, Fate, Conscience and Consequence
Eric still had not moved nor uttered a sound but when Artorius touched his shoulder, he suddenly came back to life. He turned quickly, grabbed the other man’s arms and stared into his eyes with an unspoken yet knowing and urgent question. Artorius held him tightly and responded cautiously. “We will see if there is some chance of saving her once we get there. That is all I can offer for now.” Eric finally managed to make some voice through his fear. “Then we must hurry if there is even a slimmest chance.” He closed his eyes in attempt to hold back tears of blinding pain for thought of losing his wife.
The two of them made a harrowing journey through the darkness of night and wildnerness. They spoke little, rested little, ate even less. There seemed to be no need for words between them. Eric was lost in thoughts and memories of his wife. He spent his waking hours pushing his horse on through the thickest of forests, streams and hilly landscapes, thinking of little else other than reaching Reina in time. He prayed to the Gods, the Goddesses, to any spirits or entities he could summon in his mind, asking for miracles, bargaining for the young woman’s life. His few hours of sleep were filled with Reina, from her childhood days of following him about tagging after him constantly… her tiny pixie like face ever smiling and giggling behind him. Then quite suddenly it seemed to him, she turned into some other creature entirely… she became a full woman, calm and serious but with some knowing smile that betrayed that seriousness when she would look his way with those eyes that could play tricks on anyone with their faint changes in color depending upon her mood. Her pale skin that glowed and never grew darker from the sun, never blemished or freckled…save a few sprinkles over her nose that remained of her childhood. Her hair that curled around her face, down her back in waves of a glossy russet, reminding him of the woods she came from. One day she had been an irritating little minx to him, and the next day, he was lost in the depths of her eyes, her soft smile and the waves of her untamed hair.
She of course had known from her beginnings that one day, Eric should be hers. She had never doubted it even when he had waved her away and treated her like a pestering little sister. She had just smiled her little lopsided grin, stuck her tongue out at him, laughed and skipped away… then came back again and again, until that one day when she stuck her tongue out at him and let him capture it with his mouth, sealing their fate just as she had planned. He had captured her tongue, her smile, she had captured his heart all in front of her Father that day. Reina had planned that well, he thought, smiling sadly at the memory. Of course, her Father, having witnessed the action, went immediately to the Clan elders and demanded that Eric be mated with Reina. It was just a show of formality on everyone’s part… they all knew that Eric would mate with Reina even before Eric ever realized or had notions of that sort. Once it was set, Eric had no arguement or disagreement with it. In fact, he was glad of it, for he knew somewhere in his mind and heart that Reina was the right one, the one the Gods had set for him. Reina… all that he could think of on that journey through Hell was of her, he tried to send his thoughts out to her, to will her to live to smile at him again.
Artorius knew that it was useless to try to deter Eric’s thoughts but had to make some feeble attempt at calming the man’s turbulent emotions. Eric’s wild fear and bursts of rage were affecting the horses and their travel. When Eric’s horse nearly threw him into a merky and muddy river bed, Artorius decided it was time to stop and rest for a bit. Eric slid from his horse and the animal bolted away in wild abandon, as far it seemed as possible from Eric and his mindless curses of frustration. Eric shouted for the horse and swore violently when the animal took off.
Artorius paid no to it, just shrugged and offered advice. “He will return when you both have calmed yourselves of each other. Leave him be. You have abused him and yourself enough for today.” He then turned his attention to starting a small fire for them to rest near. Motioning for Eric to sit, more of a command than a suggestion, he finally spoke. “You must cease this turbulence of your mind now. It will do no good, either to her or us. All we can do at this point is focus on getting to her in one piece. If you keep on like this, the horse will in all good sense refuse you and you will find yourself walking the rest of the journey… which, you might agree, would slow our progress considerably.” He passed a chunk of bread and a jug of blood wine over to Eric, who waved it away stating he was not hungry.
Artorius forced it back to him. “I know well you have no appetite but you must still eat, drink and rest a bit… your body, your mind and your heart. You must prepare yourself for what ever fate the Gods will bring.”
Eric shrugged and gave a heart wrenching dismal frown. “I can not bring myself to face those thoughts, I must carry through with the thought that we will find her alive and on some path to wellness… Else, I would give up now and let the horse fell me from a cliff.”
Artorius nodded in understanding, and said little else save one comment. “Is that what she would want for you then? To join her in her untimely death. Is that what she believes in, that you should take the fates into your own hands and die along with her.”
Eric thought for a moment then responded. “Have I not done that already? Have you not done that, in saving me. Have you not taken the fates in your hands by intervening to save me when I should have died in that battle… Perhaps, that should have been our destiny, for me to die in that battle and for her to join me in this death.” He hung his head, holding it in his hands before the fire that burned down to the faintest glowing embers, much like embers of life burning out.
Artorius sighed in some agreement. “Ahhh, do not think that I have not wondered now about that same thing. It weighs heavily on my heart right now. All I can reason is that I did the right thing then, gave you a chance to live. What I could not know, nor can any of us ever know, is what the consequences of our life altering decisions may be. We do what we feel we need to, what we feel is right and just at the time and then we must bear the brunt, the result of that decision throughout our life. We can not go back and change it, we must move forward no matter what. Yes, I did alter the fates of your life on that day, as you did in accepting it as well. All I can do now is pray that we should reach your wife in time, that I can offer her some hope of healing your souls throughout the future. I intervened where maybe I should not have… now, it is up to the Gods to decide the rest.”
They both sat silently watching the embers fade to charred bits of ash, wondering if this what the future would hold for them. The embers died out and the men found a few hours of rest wrapped in their robes. After some rest, they set out once more with a silent determination to reach their destination at the quickest speed possible. Neither of them made mention of what they might find when they arrived there.
It took them another three days of travel to reach the hills where they would find the deceptive rock formations that hid the entrance to the Fairie lands. The rock circle was within a glen deep in the forest of those hills. If one did not know where to look, or what to look for, they would search in vain forever. Then, even if they had some knowledge of what to search for, if they did not know how to enter, they would never gain access to that other place well guarded and hidden within the strange mists that surrounded the circle of stones. Eric knew all of what was required for admittance to the territory but hesitated at first, only because he feared what he would find in that sanctuary. They were so close now, and his fear deepened to his soul… something, someone was telling him, warning him of heartache ahead. He could feel it within him, could feel now that Reina was still with him but slipping away.
Artorius must have felt it too. He stopped and stared ahead at the entrance, shaking as if to rid himself of some unseen force touching him. He reached back for Eric and they both stood for a moment, trying to calm themselves before facing what ever was waiting for them.
The wooded space they walked through the stones into was not quite a village, but consisted of a group of cottages built close together to form a circle around a clearing which served as a common area for the group that lived there. One large stone cottage stood at the other side of the entrance with four smaller ones on each side of it. It had once been more than comfortable for the small group of Fairies who called it home, but now was over flowing with those who had sought sanctuary in the space. There were a large number of people sitting and standing quietly around the cottages… far too quietly, Artorius thought. They were a ragged, worn group whose eyes still showed the fear of recent events. As Artorius walked past them, he could feel their frayed nerves on edge at the sight of him in his Roman attire. He tried to set minds at ease with his thoughts, reminding the Vampyres there that he was of their kind and his allegiance was to them.
An old one, the wise woman, the healer, stepped out of the big cottage and motioned them to come. Eric walked slowly, as if in a trance toward her. He looked around at the people, his people and saw the sorrow in their eyes as many reached out to give him some form of comfort in their touch. They were eerily silent, the women brushed away tears and the few men shook their heads and would not look him in the eye. He knew that something was very wrong here, more than just their general sadness over the losses to all…
He entered the cottage to be surrounded by his sisters and his cousin. Eric lifted out his arms and they held to each other tightly, heads bowed for some moments. Their joy at being reunited was muted by the grief they felt.
Artorius kept himself to the door’s edge. He did not want to intrude or cause discomfort on this time, knowing that his presence would no doubt cause the young women more despair. As he waited there, the old one came close and stroked his arm. He looked down at her as she continued to stroke, not just his physical being, but his mind as well. She was a mixed bloodline of Fairie, Vampyre and some other blood that he could not quite place. She smiled softly, sending thoughts his way. “Ahhh, you are not familiar with my other bloodline, then..”
He nodded and shared his confused thoughts with her as he looked at her closely trying to discern her other origins. She was an elder, but held her age well with a royal sort of grace. Her hair was a shiny, deep black with only a streak of silver running through it, swept back into an intricate braided rope around her head. She was of a darker complexion than most he saw in this country and her face was thin and unlined from wrinkles. Her dress was a long flowing robe of a style he had seen else where some time ago. “I must admit, you seem familiar in some way. I have some feeling that your origins are a long distance from this Isle.”
She sighed as she watched the family group in front of them. “Yes, you could say that and you would well be right. I would say that I am as far away from my ancestral home as you are from yours.” She paused for a moment, watching the dark hair girl with some sadness. “That one there, she is my grand daughter. Daughter of Gizella and Svein.” A tear fell down the old woman’s cheek as she went on. “My name is Scoithin Riel. She is named for my ancestor who traveled here to make a new life for us. Her name is Scotia… I must thank you sir, for finding her. I thought she would be lost to me as well.”
Artorius bowed his head and squeezed the older woman’s hand while she wiped the tears away with her other hand. They stood back watching the group share their own tears. The woman spoke softly, “They have each other for now, it will aid in the pain to come ahead.”
Artorius asked the question that needed to be answered. “But, she still lives, does she not? I can feel her presence hovering on the edge.” He looked at the woman, with her vampyre blood apparent. “Can we not save her?”
Scoithin answered him in thought. “Are you of full blood? I am not of full blood and I feared that to try would cause her even more pain. You know it is difficult to turn one of Fairie blood, and as sick as she already was, I dared not attempt it.” Artorius nodded his head, he understood her concerns. She went on, “Besides that, she does not have the will… she does not want to go on.” She hugged herself and sighed sadly. “I told her what had happened with Eric, that he lived and would come for her… She told me she would hold on for him, to see him one last time but that she must go. She keeps saying she must go, she can not wait much longer.”