1480 DERAGAN - Finding Her Way Back to Me
Nightville, Nightway (Five years in Ardae)
Fog was not uncommon in Ardae. A haze of it often rested over the land. Especially near the Gunnison Mountains at the eastern edge of the continent, the Black Mountains which cut off the southern most point aptly named Battling Country, and the Paladinian Mountains angling across the northwestern hemisphere. Which separated the Paladines from both Dread Country to the south and Mane country to the east of it.
But across the continent from those mountains was Nightway. Biting off most of the Northeastern portion of the country.
NightVille was the village outlying the castle itself. And beyond it were a scatter of wealthy town homes, able to escape much of the heavy fog by residing in the valley.
The one nearest the village, along the road into it, was the one Deragan rented from the Nightway Queen herself. An opulent construction which he'd found quite comfortable.
As Deragan dressed to head out he considered the risk.
He knew Radix had pursued them from the Upperlands down to Ardae. He now knew the demon master had used Dread Portals, doors of energy identified by the witches of Ardae, to move across the country. Or to the UpperLands above or the Fey Tunnels below.
Each door is capable of going multiple directions.
But finding them is the hard part.
Typically only Dreads could sense them. Though others could stumble upon them by accident.
Deragan had once. He shuddered at the memory of the dizzying sensation of being moved by energy. And fearing where you'd be deposited.
Though Dreads and others, if powerful enough, can will it where to take them.
Ardae was a land Radix was obviously familiar with.
Aware of that fact, Deragan was always conscientious of any danger as he exited his country home. More so this morning with the descending fog which could mask a demon attack.
Deragan stepped out to a cold November day. Obvious from the lingering frost.
However a consequence of Deragan's immortality was a near immunity to feel the cold. Which had seemed a benefit until the knights had learned it meant they were barely aware when they burned themselves, or were falling into hypothermia or acquired frostbite.
Our bodies are still vulnerable to what are senses hardly perceive.
So he tugged his sleeves down and reminded himself to watch for signs of increasing chill.
Other then that the day was none too bad.
Perfect for a morning hunt. Slinging a bow over his shoulder and heading across the frost-slickened lawn in search of dinner for His Country Home. Following the familiar path, he let his mind wander to his favorite topic. Her beautiful face.
And the same questions. Why? What happened to her after she gave us this…Immortality.
He ducked a branch furred with silver ice. Rising and loading his bow in readiness as h
Since that fateful day, her face was a permanent fixture in his mind. He was connected to her from the moment he lifted her in his arms. Her halo of pale hair framing her face in soft waves. Lovely blue eyes taking in his, like a starved woman’s last meal.
He sighed. Shaking his head at his own foolishness. His eyes on frosted grass.
He entered the stand of large needle trees bordering his property. Avoiding the crunch of frozen cones underfoot, he wove to the darkest part of the woods. Glimpses of green grass peered through the white coating. Trees clustered here, creating an atmosphere of warmth where the snow’s reach couldn’t freeze. He crouched to wait.
It was mid-morning before he heard the first snuffling of a brush animal. He patiently waited until it came into view.
A driter. A round, flat-faced animal whose torso was wound with succulent meat. But possessing large claws which could deeply gouge. He knew well to stay from its range.
Watching its small nose twitch and tiny eyes flicking, he was careful. Aware it compensated for the lack of smell and near blindness with its unusually large pointed ears.
He shot it through the shoulders. Watching its chest rupture with the pointed tip. Exhilarated with the thrill of the hunt.
He took his time cleaning it next to the burbling stream. Eventually reaching between the chunks of ice to briskly cleanse his hands, oblivious to the frigid water. Drying them on his tunic. He slung his bow across his chest, before pulling the driter over his shoulders. Glancing up he noticed he had lost much of the day. It was now late afternoon. And it would take him some time to get home with the meat.
Emerging from the woods into the foggy haze of evening, he was pleased to see the weather had warmed some and the frost had melted throughout the afternoon.
He jerked to a stop. Startled to see a woman standing in his yard staring up at his country home.
Long blonde hair cascaded down her back in waves. Swaying over a cream colored, lace-edged, sleeveless dress. Which exposed delicate shoulders to the brisk air.
Glow flies brightened in the descending evening. Creating a myriad of dancing lights glimmering in the fog around her head. Reflecting lightly over her pale skin.
The driter fell from his shoulders and he stared at her back in wonder. Numbly tugging the bow from him, he clutched it in his fist.
It can’t be. But he felt her presence. Recognizing it as surely as he knew his own reflection.
The bow fell from his hand.
That hair…The statuesque figure.
Wonder filled him as he stared at that slender back framing to a narrow waist before flaring out in rounded hips. All molded by the fitted gown.
His leaden feet carried him in a slow circle around her until he could see her profile staring at the house. Surrounded by dancing green fireflies, she looked like a silhouette carved in snow.
A frozen statue intruding on my lawn to stare up at my windows.
Waiting for me.
“Who are you?” He breathed.
Slowly turning to him her lips parted in a bright smile. “My name is Lacey Marcelle.”
“What-what are you doing here?” He swallowed the huge lump in his throat.
It’s her. He was certain despite that her face had been bruised and scraped. Marred by scratches and bits of rock. And this beautiful face was flawless. Still, I’m not mistaken. In eighty years, I’ve not forgotten that face.
Thought of little else… He admitted to himself.
“I’ve dreamt of this house.” She gestured at it. Giving him a long look.
“Aren’t you freezing out here? It’s the dead of winter.”
“You’re never cold.” She assessed his clothes.
He followed her gaze numbly, aware he was absent a cloak in the brisk air, glancing down his body he realized he was covered in mud and splashes of blood.
“I found it. I dreamt of it so many times…”
He took a step toward her to apologize for his appearance, sure she must be horrified. But her next words stopped him in his tracks.
“Of you. I knew I’d find you here. I’ve been looking for you.” She seemed oblivious to his state of filth.