Aleria exulted, soaring on waves of joyous song. There was such joy in Carsomyr at being rescued that the memories of the horrific battle she had just endured melted away. Her injuries dissolved in swirls of yellow and green, the pain overwhelmed by glee. Since Gorion’s murder, she couldn’t remember the last time she felt so happy and safe. And in this song, even that pain ebbed, the hurt incapable of standing up against such happiness. All she wanted was to stay there forever, simply basking in the song of this blade.
But that was not to be. Already, the song suffered disruptions, tearing at the fabric of Carsomyr’s glorious melody. Snatches of words and feelings tried to push through the woven delight of the holy avenger blade. Pain in battered joints blotted the tapestry with ugly stains of red and black. Other voices broke through the blade’s ethereal music, cutting his joy with cries of despair.
All around her, the weave of joy began to fray. She wanted to fight, to struggle to hold it together for a few more happy seconds, but she let it weaken and fade. She knew it had to. Duty called, as it always did and she could not hide from it behind the excuse of happiness.
Aleria returned to the physical world to find it shaking violently. None too pleased about this turn of events, she opened her eyes and found herself looking into the face of a gravely concerned young man. He had wild red hair and blue eyes and he was shouting very loudly. It took a moment before her ears could process the sonic assault.
“Ally! Ally are you alright?” he yelled.
More to stop the shaking than anything else, Aleria thrust out her palm, shoving the shouting robed man into one of the piles of gold coin. He landed with a crash and a skitter, with his feet and coin flying all about. Shaking her head to clear it, she fought her way to her feet as the red haired man tried to extricate himself from the small mountain of coin.
Regaining her feet, she looked over at the man flailing about like a fish on the shore, trying desperately to free himself from his pecuniary prison. Arching one eyebrow, she answered, “I’m sore but fine Kelsey. And my name is Aleria, not Ally.”
From behind her, she heard another speak, his tone managing to sound concerned and slightly smug at the same time, “Helm be praised that you are well, my lady. When you would not answer our calls, we grew worried. Why did you not answer?”
“I.. I am fine, Anomen,” Aleria tried to assure the priest beside her as she turned to face him. Hefting the weighty silver chased Carsomyr in her right hand, she swung it upright between herself and the warrior priest. “And this is why I did not answer. I was… communing with this blade.”
Anomen’s blue eyes lit up with unabashed wonder. “By Helm, is that what I think it is?”
“Yes, Anomen. It is fabled Carsomyr.” Shifting her eyes from the glinting blade to Anomen’s eyes, she added, “He called out to me and I no choice but to answer.”
Blood-stained fingers outstretched, Anomen raised his hand towards Carsomyr. He stopped just short of the pristine blade, not wanting to stain its pure mirror surface. Motionless, he stood in awed silence with hand still raised as he stared at it.
Alarmed at his bloody fingers, Aleria gasped. “Anomen, are you alright? Your hand…”
The look of wonder drained from his face, leaving behind the ashen hollow of despair as he too looked at his hand. “The blood is not mine, my lady. It is Valygar’s. He is the reason we were calling to you.”
“Is he injured?” she demanded.
“No, my lady. He is dying.”
The words bit harder and deeper than Firkraag’s claws. She staggered back under the weight of them, her mind reeling as if the beast’s tail had struck her a second time. A tide of guilt surged up and pulled her under, threatening to drown her. While she had been ridding waves of joy, Valygar had lain dying. She’d lapsed in her duty. Self recrimination reared its ugly head and threatened to pull her into despair’s murky depths.
However, her sense of duty overpowered self pity and guilt. It was possible she could still aid him. Staring at Anomen, she demanded, “Where is he?”
Anomen, reading her face, gestured to a pile of rubble and replied, “By those stones. Jaheira is tending to him.”
Before he could finish, Aleria took off towards the fallen ranger in a dead run. The sound of her armored boots reverberated in the quiet of the great stone chamber that only minutes ago resounded with the sounds of a fiercely fought battle. As she ran, she silently prayed that she was not too late.
As she neared, she could see Valygar lying broken in a slowly expanding pool of his own life essence. Her footing faltered and her steps slowed as pangs of guilt and fear rode equally through her mind. Jaheira knelt by the dark skinned ranger’s now pale face, a potion bottle in one red-stained hand. It appeared she was attempting to force the contents down his throat, but he seemed to be resisting her. Aleria was confused. She couldn’t understand why he would reject her life-saving efforts.
The druid looked up from her ministrations as she heard the young knight approach. Aleria’s questions on Valygar’s condition froze soundlessly on her lips as those green eyes locked on hers. They burned with the rage of a mother tigress standing over her wounded cub. It was a potent rage, one the knight had seen many a time the older druid tended their wounds after battle, but this time it did not burn as brightly as she’d oft seen it. Something banked that passion. She discerned it from the set of her shoulders. They were not tight with anger but instead slumped with despair. Cold fear choked Aleria as she realized that even indomitable Jaheira was loosing hope.
Kneeling down beside her, ignoring the new blood spatters that stained her armor, she asked, “Is there anything I can do?”
Jaheira’s shoulders slumped. “I do not know child. His body is badly broken, it would take powerful healing spells to heal him. Spells that neither Anomen or myself have. And even with what little power we have remaining, his spirit is fighting us instead of with us.”
“I have some small gifts of healing remaining, do you think they will help?”
The answer came not from Jaheira, but from Valygar. “No,” he coughed. “Do not.. do not waste… any more… healing… on me. Free.. of curse.” Another spasm of coughing wracked his ravaged body and Valygar’s eyes slid shut and his breathing slowed, now just shallow uneven rasps.
“No! I can’t just let you die!” Aleria shouted back, the stone chamber echoing with resoluteness. “You can’t die.” With pleading eyes, she turned to Jaheira, “There must something that we can do?”
Jaheira did not immediately answer as she gently wiped at the trickle of blood that continued to stream from the corner of Valygar’s mouth. Aleria looked intently at her but found no comfort there. She knew those of the elven blood lived much longer than humans, but before this moment, she never truly had a sense of it. Looking into those flat green eyes, she now did. Jaheira had already seen much more death and dying in her life than Aleria would ever see in her own – that is if she lived to old age. Jaheira recognized it and acknowledged it on its own terms. Aleria doubted she would ever be able to do that.
“I’m sorry child. There is nothing I can do,” she said quietly. “He has lost consciousness, it will not be long before he is called home.” Jaheira gently rested her hand on her young charge’s shoulder, resignation deep in her eyes.
“No. There must be something,” she pleaded with the druid.
“Barring divine intervention, Aleria, there is nothing we can do but pray he gets the rest he deserves,” the druid said soothingly as tiny drops of crystal formed in her emerald eyes.
Aleria started, turning her green eyes on those of her mentor. Shaking her head as if to clear is, she demanded, “What did you say?”
Jaheira, a look a confusion crossing her soot stained face, slowly repeated, “I said, ‘Barring divine intervention, there is..”
“That’s it!” Aleria exclaimed excitedly, interrupting Jaheira and leaving the druid even more perplexed.
Aleria’s next action only served to mystify Jaheira further. Instead of pulling out some hidden scroll or chanting a spell, she watched the young knight lift up the strange sword she’d extracted from the hoard and hold it aloft. Then, the young woman pressed her forehead against the gleaming head and plead, “Carsomyr, aid me.”
At first, it looked as if nothing would happen. Then the room was filled with a flash of blinding white light, forcing Jaheira and the others to duck and shade their eyes. “Aleria! Aleria, what are you doing?” shouted the druid.
Aleria blinked and found herself in the misty realm that Carsomyr dwelled within. She found herself amidst the swirling mists where the avatar of the blade had greeted her, but strangely, the avatar was missing. Wondering where the joyful singer was, she called out, “Carsomyr! Carsomyr! Can you hear me? It is Aleria, and I need your aid!”
At her call, a nebulous form began to form from the swirling vapors of this strange realm. Around the familiar glowing eyes his ethereal face took shape once more. But this time, the joyful smile did not appear, this time replaced with a look of compassion and concern. As he strode out of the swirling mist, he spoke, the tones of his voice painted in blues and purples. “I hear you, my Lady, and I come.”
“I need your aid, Carsomyr. My friend lies at death’s door and none of my companions can heal his grievous injuries,” said the knight.
The misty avatar of Carsomyr stepped closer, resting an ephemeral hand upon Aleria’s shoulder. “I know, my Lady. I have felt your pain and anguish at the loss of one as close as your friend. But I know not how I can aid you. I am a weapon of war, not of healing. All the aid I can offer is the Stroke of Mercy.”
“NO!” shouted Aleria, the force of her scream powerful enough to blow the misty avatar back. “I did not come to you to end his life, but to save it!”
Holding his hands out in defeat, Carsomyr replied, “And if I had the power to heal, I would offer it to you to heal your friend. But I can not do that.”
Now it was Aleria who strode forward, hands somehow gripping the ethereal robes of Carsomyr. Pulling him forward, she begged, “There must be something you can do. You told me you were infused with some small divine spark of our Lord Tyr. Surely that power can do more than just wage war!”
Carsomyr made no move to free himself. Instead, he looked deep into Aleira’s eyes with those penetrating golden orbs of his. To the young knight, it seemed almost as if Carsomyr was not studying her face, but her very soul. The two stood there in the swirling mists for some time, neither moving or speaking.
A deep dread began to creep into Aleria’s mind. Perhaps there was nothing he could do and she had assaulted this instrument of light in her desperation and grief. Despite the doubts sending treacherous fissures into her resolve, she continued to hold the avatar’s stare. If there was a chance, no matter how slim, she could not fail or falter now.
Finally, the avatar broke the stare, looking down to the swirling mists that covered whatever passed for a floor. The mists surrounding them turned even darker, nearly black with only the barest flashes of color. In a voice that sounded ancient and distant, Carsomyr spoke, “There… there is one thing that can be attempted.”
“Then we will do it,” stated Aleria.
Looking up with those golden eyes, Aleria could see the pain and worry there. “There are risks, grave risks. It could cost your life.”
“But will it save him?”
Carsomyr was silent.
“Will it save him?” demanded Aleria a second time.
“Yes,” admitted the avatar heavily.
“Then tell me what must be done.”
Carsomyr looked into her eyes once more, as if gauging her resolve. Closing his eyes, he answered, “Upon returning to the waking world, you will lay me lengthways across your wounded friend. Then you must cut your palms along my edge, then place your bloody hands upon my blade. This will form the conduit for me to act. Through your open wounds, I will draw upon your divine half and channel it through myself into him.”
“Very well,” answered Aleria grimly.
“But, my Lady, once the process is begun, it can not be halted until he is fully healed. I will be forced to continue to drain you until his body is whole again. I may be forced to take your very soul to save him. Even if it does not, it will leave you weak and enervated for many days. Are you sure? Is his life truly worth such a sacrifice?”
“Is that even a question, Carsomyr? How can I fail to try?”
Carsomyr sighed. “Then we will begin. May Tyr save us both.”
With a flash, Carsomyr and his misty realm disappeared.
The light faded as quickly as it had appeared. Blinking to clear her eyes of the dazzling afterimages, Jaheira looked at where Aleria still knelt and called out again, “Aleria! What is happening?”
“It is alright Jaheira. I have a plan. I can save him,” came the calm reply of the young knight.
“What? What plan?” she demanded, but the young woman did not answer. Instead, she watched as her charge shifted her grip from the hilt of the sword to its edge and then pressed. A small gasp of pain slipped past the paladin’s lips as crimson blood began to trickle down the mirror bright blade.
Deeply concerned, Jaheira started towards her as did Anomen. Seeing her two friends coming towards her, Aleria smiled faintly. “Please. . . Do not interfere. I have a way to save him. Let me proceed.”
Both healers exchanged glances at the paladin with the now crimson coated sword. Both could feel the energy about her growing and it comforted neither. Jaheira was tender but emphatic. “I will not let you proceed if it will endanger yourself. The cost of this day is too high already.”
Aleria gave her a beatific smile and tried to reassure her. “Do not worry, Jaheira. My lord Tyr will protect me.”
Seeing no other way, Jaheira simply nodded and backed away.
The fire haired paladin swung the blade around, the now blood smudged blade resting in her palms. Staring towards the heavens, Aleria prayed, “My Lord Tyr, protector of justice, help me to save this just man.”
Lowering her head, she rested the blade upon Valygar’s shattered chest, hilt towards the dark skinned man’s pale face. She brought her hands together, pressing bleeding palms together. After a deep breath, she then leaned forward and pressed her hands upon the blade.
For a moment, nothing seemed to happen as the other members of the party gathered around the paladin and wounded ranger. Then, a deep blue glow formed around the mighty sword’s blade, casting a warm light on the devastation around them all.
Slowly the blue aura spread up the knight’s arms, highlighting the seams and edges of her engraved and dented armor. It crept up her bracers and around her damaged pauldrons and then spread across her dented and scratched breastplate. From her gorget, it wound round her face, sliding up the thin scar on her cheek. Her hair fanned out from her head, the red strands wreathed in crackling blue energy, creating a swirling halo of red and blue around her face. Finally, the blue sheath slid down her armored legs, surrounding her completely and suffusing her form.
With the swirling blue corona of energy now encircling Aleria, it began to spread downwards from the blade. Tendrils of energy snaked across Valygar’s body, seeking the massive wounds in his form. The bandages wrapped around his body began to glow a bright blue as the spreading energy found its way into the deep furrows carved by the dragon’s merciless claws. Then it spread to his limbs, bathing the broken limbs in swirls of blue. Finally, the ranger’s whole form was sheathed in blue, just as Aleria’s.
The four other adventures exchanged concerned glances in hushed silence as they looked from the two blue wreathed forms and each other. None knew what to expect, but it was the sharp eyes of the gnome that noticed the first change. In a voice full of wonder, Jan exclaimed, “By Uncle Doily’s blistered backside, his leg! Valygar’s leg! It’s moving!”
Following the excited gnome’s finger, Jaheira looked down in time to see the ranger’s broken left leg straightening. Before unbelieving eyes, she watched the shattered bone slip back under the flesh and then the flesh itself seal over. She was familiar with divine healing, but to see such a wonder usually required the efforts of a powerful druid or cleric, something her charge was not. Eyes wide, she exclaimed, “By Silvanus.”
“By Helm, his arms. They straighten as well,” exclaimed the warrior priest as the twisted limbs realigned, the harsh sounds of bones knitting back together cutting through the mesmerized silence of the four adventurers.
In shocked silence, the others watched as the horrifying injuries the silent ranger had suffered miraculously healed and closed. The blood pool shrank as the precious life fluid poured back into the rapidly closing wounds. Even the soaked through bandages surrendered the precious fluid as it found its way back into his body. A series of sharp staccato pops of his spine realigning itself filled the chamber as his back straightened and color returned to his face. Jaheira’s trained ear could tell that Valygar’s breathing no longer labored or shallow. Somehow, Aleria was healing him, repairing damage that only the most powerful spells could.
Finally, even the last scratches and abrasions sealed under the ministrations of the healing magics and the glow began to fade from both ranger and knight. Rushing forward on her still stiff leg, the druid knelt next to Aleria and looked down at the still prone form of Valygar. All of the man’s injuries had healed. Lifting away now the now clean and dry bandages, she looked down at whole flesh. Unbelieving, she traced a finger across where one wound had been and felt only smooth skin. There was not even a scar to mark where horrible wounds had been.
A look of wonder overwhelmed her normal stern countenance as she turned to Aleria, whose hands still rested on the blade. “Aleria! You did…” she exclaimed, her voice dying on her lips as she looked into the knight’s eyes. Instead of the usual green, they glowed with otherworldly golden light.
“Aleria?” questioned Jaheira as her joy quickly turned to ash. “Are you alright?”
“It is done,” answered a voice that was both the knight’s and not. Without a further word, the golden light fled from Aleria’s eyes and the normal green irises returned. Those green eyes locked with Jaheira’s for but a second, a look of tired joy on the young knight’s pale, ashen face. And then with a heaved sigh, the young woman collapsed into unconsciousness, falling into the ready embrace of the druid.
Holding onto the taller woman to keep her unmoving form from falling to the unyielding stone floor, Jaheira’s hand snaked up to her neck to feel for the lifebeat. It was still there, steady but very weak. She couldn’t have lost that much blood from the shallow wounds on her palms to cause this, she thought. It had to be more. It had to have been what ever rite she had performed with that strange blade. What the mystical blade had taken from her charge in exchange for Valygar’s miraculous restoration? Cradling the woman’s head against her armored shoulder, Jaheira cried out, “Aleria, my child, what have you done?”
A Meeting of Like Minds - Chapter 4
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