Rush Of Blood To The Head, part 7.4.
Viconia and Jaheira set to their task with all haste and in a matter of few moments powerful healing spells bring Demin back to life, from the brink of the death. Jaheira helps her to rise from the floor and I assist her in carrying the priestess to the nearest chair and seating her on it. She takes a few moments to gather her breath before addressing us, and we all wait for her words patiently.
“I… th-thank you for your assistance, strangers… you are not elves… how do you come to be here?” the priestess asks, “Our city is very difficult to find by outsiders, and with the Exile employing his magics to hide it… if you have stumbled upon it unknowingly, then it truly is a miracle.”
“We came here with general Sovalidaas and a part of his forces,” Jaheira explains and the priestess raises an eyebrow at the explanation, “we were supposed to come here under the leadership of Elhan, but unfortunately he died on the battlefield.”
“Excuse me, priestess, but most of the elves we rescued in the city, referred to Irenicus as the Exile,” I say to Demin, but she looks rather stunned by the news of Elhan’s death, “am I to understand that he has returned to a place that he has once been banished from?”
“Oh… Elhan… Rillifane, bless your spirit… forgive me, stranger, I need a moment to recollect myself…” Demin falls silent, but after a little while continues the tale, “You are correct about the Exile, stranger… many of us would prefer this incident solved without involving others, but I begin to believe it is a mistake to keep this amongst us exclusively. The consequences of this have been far reaching and have proven especially difficult to dispel.”
“I know that elves are reluctant to share any information about events occurring in their own settlements and generally tend to disassociate from other races, but I am afraid that this is not an internal affair, priestess Demin,” Jaheira adds, “we must know what motivated Irenicus to do all those atrocious things…”
“I understand and I am not so concerned with the shame of our people over Irenicus and Bodhi. What good is our silence if the city is crushed because we would not seek help?” Demin muses, “You are not an elf thus it will be difficult for you to fathom why we are so hesitant to speak of this… Hopefully you will come to understand.”
“What is there to understand?” I snarl, “I may be a stupid and barbaric half-breed and most of my companions, lowly humans and despised dark elves, but surely you could make an effort and try to explain.”
“Understand this - The Exiles were not always as you know them now,” Demin continues, “They once had names that I would have been proud to speak, and were as worthy as any other of praise.”
“That can’t be true, can it?” Imoen looks at me, confused, “they are villains, aren’t they? They… they tortured us and… and stole our souls…”
“Certainly you are entitled to your misgivings, child,” Demin looks at Imoen and addresses her in a patient voice, “You would not be here if you were not driven by powerful emotions, and the Exile is good at provoking a reaction.”
“Yes, he has provoked himself right into a fireball on our next meeting (no one keeps Edwin Odesseiron caged and gets away with it, that much is a certainty),” Edwin growls.
“However, he has garnered the strongest of reactions from us, his own people, for he wronged us greater than any other. He is a criminal that knows no bounds,” Demin says, “Yes, he was once elven as we are, but he is no longer. Queen Ellesime rightfully cast him out, for he had proven he was not elven at heart.”
“And how exactly did he prove that?” I ask her.
“Then I must return to an earlier history… She and He were well known in the elven court of Suldanessellar. He, at least, was a great asset to our kind and kin. He was the greatest of our mages, as skilled as any of elven blood could be without divine assistance. He even had the favour of the Queen,” Demin’s face expression turns sour, “But it was not enough for him… of the two, the 'sister' was the insatiable one. She was not as regarded, but she held great influence over her 'brother,' and pulled him into her madness.”
“And obviously they committed some crime… get to the point, priestess, we did not rescue you to listen to such long ramblings,” Viconia intervenes.
“Every piece of information is valuable in order to better understand our opponent,” Keldorn objects and I am hardly surprised by his reaction.
“Yes, if I may continue… as I said, Bodhi was obsessed with power - together they sought more than was possible, they wished the power of the gods, and they were not concerned about the consequences,” Demin’s face expression turns dark, “Irenicus performed a dark ritual and committed a grave offense against the greatest symbol of our longevity, the Tree of Life. He sought to merge his essence with the divine tree, draining it and stealing its energy.”
“Impressive…” a word escapes from Viconia’s lips.
“Indeed, drow… I always admired people with huge ambitions, but it looks like this wizard bit off too big of a lump to swallow. Now, I, on the other hand…” Edwin starts to boast…
“Yes, yes, we know Edwin… you are worthy of a divine status, we know that…” I cut him off, “as you were saying, priestess…”
“Irenicus failed in his plans, but there was a price to pay for the rest of us. He disrupted the elven connection to land and nature. There was a great shock that ran through Suldanessellar, and many of our weaker citizens lay near death,” I can discern hate and rage in Demin’s usually calm voice, “that he would endanger so many for his own selfish goals was one thing, but to threaten the very nature of what makes us so special, was unfathomable.”
“Err… indeed… so how come he still lives?” I ask Demin, knowing that I probably won’t like the answer.
“It fell to Queen Ellesime to judge the crime, and she was very harsh. Having forsaken everything elven, they would be outcast so they might learn how precious our ways are,” Demin explains.
“Err… so… um… she just cast them out of the city so that they could wreak havoc elsewhere?” Imoen looks at Demin, slightly stunned.
“And this comes from a person who insults us as being a lowly, uncouth, barbaric and intolerant race, clearly unable to see and understand their precious ways and moral high ground that they have adopted so graciously,” Edwin snarls, looking at Demin with disdain.
“Indeed… that doesn’t sound really… um… well, that doesn’t make me particularly sympathetic towards the elves…” I look at Demin with a faint hope that either I have misunderstood her words or she has misspoken.
“Allow me to explain… of spiritually high regard, Ellesime petitioned the gods and a divine curse was placed upon the Exiles. All their connection to the elven spirit was severed. Ellesime thought it a punishment worse than death. A life no longer than human’s and their elven spirits banished from the paradise all elvenkind are entitled to,” Demin explains, but what I hear makes me even angrier.
“That must be awful to live like a… like a… human?” Nalia shows her exceptional skills of deduction and produces a rather acceptable summarization, “hey… but I live like that every day and I can tell you that is not that bad… at least not worse than death…”
“Do not judge so quickly, Nalia,” Keldorn interjects, “I am sure that the Queen had her reasons and we cannot comprehend what such punishment would mean for an elf.”
“Well, if it is indeed a punishment worse than death as Demin says, then I must say that this Ellesime is a cruel sadist,” Viconia snarls and as I open my mouth to concur with Viconia’s statement, I am interrupted by a quick chanting and five glowing sphere’s of energy fly across room and hit Demin in the chest, making her scream in pain.
“Edwin! Stop that, immediately!” Jaheira yells and jumps towards him, trying to prevent him from further spell casting.
“I will not stand here and be insulted, druid! Not only does she insult me personally, they are the ones partly responsible for the abuse and suffering we received from Irenicus! Do you not understand that they created Irenicus? That they gave him the motivation to take revenge, thus dragging us into these machinations?”
“I understand that perfectly well, you maniacal wizard, but I will not let my anger muck up one last chance we have to survive!” Jaheira yells back at him, and I feel the need to intervene, before things have gone from bad to worse…
“Foul mage! Finally you show your true colors by harming a defenceless and hurt woman! There is no excuse for such atrocity!” Keldorn bellows, drawing his sword and looking at Edwin menacingly.
“Shut up, Keldorn and stay out of it! EVERYONE JUST SHUT UP!” Jaheira screams from the top of her lungs and immediately we all freeze and the room falls in an eerie silence.
“Err… dearest?” I ask her timidly, but she is too irritated to notice.
“Viconia! Heal the priestess and quickly! Edwin – another trick like that from you and I will strangle you with my bare hands, is that clear? Keldorn, if you dare threaten one of us once again with your sword, then you are on your own, from that moment. Do I make myself clear?” Jaheira finishes her speech and everyone in the room look rather ashamed.
“How is she?” I ask Viconia as she has finished yet another healing spell, in hopes to patch up the injured priestess.
“Ah, she will live, but I’m afraid that Edwin’s outburst may have hampered her talkativeness,” Viconia snorts, looking at our wizard, who is rather pale in the face.
“You mean that she won’t talk to us or is it that she can’t talk to us even if she wanted to?” Nalia questions her, sending sideways glances to Keldorn.
“I’m afraid that she’s not at her full consciousness right now,” Viconia explains, “I can only cast another healing spell and then we’ll have to wait… hopefully not for too long…”
Jaheira heads over to examine Demin for herself and after a few brief moments, she confirms Viconia’s conclusions… we all get seated and wait for the priestess to recover, the tension and unease still present, despite Jaheira’s outburst… and once again, I am left to question if my choice to bring Keldorn along has been the correct one.
Rush Of Blood To The Head, part 7.4.
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