Aethilfirth Part 1 The night air was heavy with rain and smoke. There was little breeze in the valley, but the smell of wood fire had travelled the mile or so from the town to the forest clearing, and to the young man's nose. He was waiting in the dark, illuminated only by moonlight when the clouds permitted. Seen by no one. The man's hand rose backwards over his shoulder, securing the grip of his sword. Had there been more light, and an observer to see, one might have seen his expression change. This foreign land had not done much for the man's mood over the past few weeks; in fact he had not felt comfortable since he had set off on his quest so long ago, but the feel of his sword's grooved handle settled his nerves. The smell of burning wood brought forward memories of childhood, of bonfires and families, taverns and their wenches, battles and their aftermath. He disregarded such ideas in an instant, knowing that any such memory may dull his awareness, distract him from his current purpose. The stranger to the land moved slowly towards the centre of the clearing as the clouds parted and swathed the scenery with the light of stars and moon. Slowly the man raised his arms horizontal with his shoulders, and his head fell back, discarding the heavy hood and freeing his shoulder length hair. The soft mist of the rain began to soak his hair, slicking it back against his skull and slowly dibbling down his neck beneath his warm cloak. In any other situation he might have shivered, discomforted by the chill of the water against his flesh, but his mind was focussed, and years of training prevented him from acknowledging such a disturbance. Without signal or warning the man began to chant. Alien words issued from his mouth at a whispers volume. Words of hidden meaning. Words of power. Once again the moonlight was swept aside by the rolling clouds, but this time the clearing did not darken. Light seemed to issue forth from the man's hands, as though he held candles between his fingers. It was not enough light to travel by, nor enough to read, but in the blackness created by the clouds it was enough to cast a glow across the man and his surroundings. As the chant grew in intensity, so did the light. Rather than candlelight it now cast shadows with the brilliance of a burning torch, and now it held colour. Azure light clashed with the greens and browns of the surrounding forest, turning the scenery into something one might have observed under the surface of the water in a lake somewhere. And still its brilliance and hue intensified. Unbewildered by the display of power, the man ceased his chant, but the light remained. He moved his hands together now, closing them together and then drawing them out again. He began to mould the light as though it was substantial, like a mud or clay, but entirely unaffected by anything other than his hands. Slowly the light took shape and began to resemble the symbol the man intended to use. Two diagonally sloping lines, linked intermittently, doubling back and sloping off to one side near the bottom. The man looked over his work for a time after his hands had ceased their craft. A smile twisted the corners of his mouth, and he breathed a long breath into the azure rune suspended before him. Like a puff of smoke the rune scattered to the wind, trailing off into the trees and sky. The throb of power surrounding the man had vanished, all except for a silver-blue colour that now replaced his eyes normal hue. The light the man had created had transformed into smoke at first, travelling down the valley towards the town. As it winded around trees and over rocks it thickened, creating a blue mist, a magic fog. Creeping faster than any normal precipitation ever could manage, the fog entered the town's periphery, snuffing out the torches that lit the streets and guard towers. Normally there would have been commotion at such an event, but the guards who would have sounded the alarm were asleep at their posts, another effect the conjured fog had produced. Within a few short minutes, all light within the streets and buildings was gone; all that remained was the dull luminescence of the magical mist. The stranger's steps were laboured as he finally set foot on the stonework of the town's streets. The pungent aroma of burned wood was now overpowered by that of urine, ale and vomit. The man's features curled in disgust, but he made no move to cover his displeasure or to cast it from his presence. He simply continued in search of his target. The number 18 was fashioned in brass, which clashed somewhat with the green paint that smothered the wood of the door. It's only other furnishing was a large, unadorned brass knob, which was tiny compared to the strangers clasped fist. He turned the knob effortlessly, the door creaking and shuddering it's displeasure at being opened on so cold a night. Heat fled from the room as the man gusted in accompanied by spits of rain and wisps of fog. Creaking wood and dripping water echoed around the house, as he began his ascent of the stairs, adding to the chorus with his heavy boots and the metal of his belts and weapons. Forcing a bedroom door slightly, the stranger strode into the only light still prevailing in the town. Light cascaded over his face, smoothing his features, as he beheld the woman in the bed. The luminescence was not caused by fire or candle, but instead was cast like an aura from her skin, beauty given radiance. Tears streaked down her cheeks, and she raised her eyes to examine the stranger. Blinking she wiped the face clear, but her eyes still held too much moisture to see clearly. The man reached out his arm and took one of her small hands into his, attempting to project as much care and warmth as he could into the gesture. She smiled, still unable to discern his features but no longer needing to. "Your presence here warms my heart, Aethilfirth. You have wandered far, and traversed many lands to reach me." "It is my honour, lady. Duty renders meaning to service, and thus I ask you to accept me. My powers are yours to command in whatever way can lighten your woes and diminish your fears." At this the ladies' smile diminished, and more tears fell from her eyes. "I am sorry then, my friend, to bind you into service as a master would a slave." "You misinterpret, m'lady. You do not bind me in any way; you merely guide my actions as friend, counsel and leader. You have not the heart to keep, nor suffer the keeping, of slaves." Again her smile returned. "Then sit a while and I shall empty my woes upon you, and you may decide if you are still ready to take up such a burden." Tristan ;-)
If you wouldn't mind, when you post your next story that's related to this one, would you link this chapter to it. Then continue this process with the previous chapter. It makes it easier on me when I update the library.