I wanted to write a new chapter of my fanfic as my Christmas present to you all, but predictably, I had no time to do so.
So instead, I'll give you this: a short piece I wrote a long while ago that gives us a glimpse into the mother of my protagonist, Markra.
Hope you enjoy!
Gorion shouted as he rammed his fist against the door. He jiggled the door handle for the umpteenth time, but no matter how many times he wished it, the lock would not click. Curse him, of all the days to not have Knock
Holding his staff in wobbly hands, he began prodding the door. With any luck, he might be able to push it down. In the mists of the rainforest, moss and mold had begun to creep along the walls, growing out of cracks and splitting splinters. The hut must have been abandoned years ago, unseen and unheard of since.
How many months, Gorion wondered, had he searched the far reaches of the Realms for Alienna? Why had she sought refuge in such a remote and gods-forsaken place as this, and why had she never sent him word that she was safe?
Suddenly, his staff slipped from his fingers and slid between the door and its frame. With a mighty heft and wince of effort, Gorion used his staff like a lever and pried the door open. It fell inward and thudded against the wall on the other side.
“So, you care so much that you would break down a door for me?” a woman’s voice chuckled from the shadows within.
Gorion’s heart leaped into his throat. “Alienna…”
The elf woman stood as beautiful as ever in the dark end of a hallway, dressed in a loose white nightgown. Her dark hair fell far past her shoulders in wild curls, an earthy brown that glowed burnished orange against the flickering candle before her face. She looked exactly the same as when Gorion had last seen her—elves hardly aged, and they hadn’t been apart for too long—but the air around her was dead. Dark circles sagged beneath her emerald eyes, her skin had grown bone pale, and her smile… It was a ghost on her lips, tired and melancholy. She was the same, and yet not, woman Gorion had loved and adventured with.
“You’ve not changed at all Gorion,” Alienna said with the shake of her head. “Not at all.”
“Alienna.” Gorion stepped forward and closed the door behind him. Darkness embraced the pair of them, broken only by the soft candlelight and slivers of cloudy daylight leaking through the window curtains. “Where have you been all of this time?”
“I’d told you to find your own path,” Alienna continued as if she hadn’t heard him. “You relied too much on my love for you, and such weight and chains were cumbersome to a man who Harps.”
Gorion’s fists curled. “I remember the conversation well—”
“Yet here you are, still chasing me instead of the evil that threatens the balance of our world. I thought you different than other men… It seems I was right to leave you.”
“Alienna!” Gorion did not need to shout, but his voice shook with an anger he rarely loosed on anyone. “What has gotten into you? Why do you speak such cruelties? We may not be together anymore, but never once did I think we ever stopped being friends! And it’s not just me—all of our friends among the Harpers are worried about you!”
“Ah.” Her eyes lit up, and she flashed another grim smile. “So there it is. The Harpers sent you here, have they? They found my hiding spot so soon?”
“No, Alienna. They did send me to search for you, but until I return, your whereabouts are unknown to them.”
He stepped forward and leaned his staff against the wall. Not that he had much need for it, not when his hands served well enough for casting spells. But no matter how superficial, Gorion would take any chance he could to ease Alienna’s threatened stance.
“Please…” He reached out his hand. “I am not your enemy, I’m your friend. I always have been. Why do you abhor me so, why are you in hiding? If you speak the truth, I might be able to help you.”
Alienna paused, a steely gaze in her eyes as she observed him up and down. Though after a moment, she sighed and relaxed.
“I do not abhor you, Gorion,” she whispered. “Come. Stay with me a while, and I’ll tell you everything.”
She led him into the bedroom at the end of the hall. The air was thick with mildew, moss, and the moisture of a past rain, just the way Alienna liked her rooms. Humbly furnished, the only furniture comprised of a small bed against the wall, and a desk with a mirror hanging just above it, a makeshift vanity.
Alienna placed the candle holder on top of the vanity, so its light flickered off the mirror and faintly lit the room. Then she gestured to the bed for Gorion.
Anyone else might have been afraid to sit on an empty bed for fear of traps, but Gorion knew Alienna and knew her abilities. He took the time to smooth a pocket of the covers before he sat down, and gazed at Alienna. She wouldn’t stare at him back, instead feigning fascination with the amulet around her neck. She rolled the silver chain links between her thumb and forefinger absently, a habit Gorion recognized well—a sign of intense thought, likely mulling over words to say.
“You swear that no one has come with you?” she asked at last.
“Of course,” Gorion answered. “But why all this secrecy, Alienna? What is going on?”
She stopped fiddling with her necklace and met his gaze, eyes cold. “There are dark forces moving, Gorion. The Time of Troubles is nearing its end. The prophecies of Alaundo are coming to fruition, and all our world will plunge into darkness.”
Gorion gaped, speechless for a moment. “How do you know all of this?”
“I’ve seen it. I’ve had the words spoken in my ear, and the future shown to me. More gods will die before the end is upon us, including the murder lord Bhaal.”
“Then it is our duty as Harpers to ensure the world maintains balance. If what you say is true, then the people will need us now more than ever.”
“Indeed. You are correct, Gorion.”
The mage shook his head. “But that still doesn’t explain why you’re here and why you haven’t contacted us. What is wrong
, Alienna? Come back with me and the Harpers, and help us fight against this evil!”
But at his plea, the elf chuckled. Gorion’s skin crawled. It was a grim laugh he’d never heard from Alienna’s lips, a phantom of her once-youthful joy.
“I can’t go back to them,” she said. “Not anymore. They’d sooner kill me if given the chance.”
“K-Kill you?” Gorion gasped. “Alienna, don’t be ridiculous. The Harpers wouldn’t turn on their own, they—”
“One of their own.” She chuckled again. “But that’s just it, isn’t it, my old friend?”
She reached for the amulet. Upon a closer look, Gorion realized it was a locket of sorts, just a plain silver circle with elven intricacies around the edges. But once Alienna opened it, his eyes widened and he shot up from the bed. On the locket’s insides was a grinning skull surrounded in rings of tears, the holy symbol of Bhaal, god of murder.
“So you understand,” Alienna whispered. “I harp no more, Gorion.”
“Y-You…” Gorion gulped, struggling for words. “You’re a priestess of Bhaal?”
She nodded. “I belong to Him now. He is mine, and I am His.”
“But… Alienna… Bhaal is wicked. He is an evil faith, an evil god! Why would you serve someone like Him!?”
“Wicked and evil He is and may be, that does not change how I feel.”
Alienna sighed and wandered to the mirror, a reminiscent smile on her face. Gorion recognized the distance in her eyes, as if she were staring into a dream while wide awake. The flush in her cheeks, the tug of a grin on her lips, the same eyes that had once stared at him so—
Oh no. Oh gods no
“I love Him, Gorion,” she finished. “I adore Him. Bhaal has…shown so much to me, shared so much knowledge of this world and the next. To serve Him is the least I could do for the lord of murder.”
“Alienna…” Gorion spoke slowly, tactfully. The last thing he wanted was to rouse her anger and start a battle between them; she was clearly sick with madness, perhaps a spell that Bhaal had woven into her heart. If Alienna wasn’t herself, then the Harpers could not blame her for her actions. He must make her see the light, realize the crooked path she’s taken before she disappeared within its shadows.
“Think of who Bhaal is, what He represents. The will and power to kill another person, another living being. You…You have always fought to protect life, not to end it. To serve Bhaal, to even love Him, it’s…it’s against everything that you’ve ever stood for.”
“People change, Gorion,” she murmured. “I have changed.”
“No.” His fists curled again. He wouldn’t believe her. None of her words were truly hers, not while Bhaal spun his wicked magic through her tongue. “This isn’t you, Alienna. And you’ll realize it once you’ve returned to the Harpers with me.”
“I’m not going back to the Harpers. I told you, they’ll kill me for what I’ve done.”
“You have done nothing!
” Gorion shouted. Just the sight of her so calm and collected, yet so diseased and delusional, it set a rage blazing in his gut that few could ever ignite. “Tell them nothing of what you’ve done, and I will keep your secret. Just please, come back with me, and we can fix this together! You can still turn back, Alienna. You still have a chance to redeem yourself!”
She still refused to look at him, gazing emptily into her reflection. Gorion took a few steps forward so at least she could see him in the mirror, whether she wanted to or not. At last, she gave another quiet sigh, and laid her palm against its cold, flat surface, right where his reflection stood in the dark.
“If you had come for me earlier, perhaps I could…” Alienna muttered. “But it’s too late now. There is no helping me.”
“Only if you choose to give up this easily!”
“You still don’t understand.” Alienna cut him off and shook her head. “I told you, I love
him, Gorion. Think on that a moment, would you? Think of what that entails.”
Gorion thought nothing of it at first, but soon, it hit him all at once. It killed his feverish efforts, froze the blood in his veins as he stared aghast at his old friend, his ex-lover, his loyal adventuring partner who’d braved countless dangers alongside him. He staggered back one step as he struggled to absorb it all, struggled to gaze at this living ghost of the elf he once loved. This priestess of Bhaal, this madwoman who loved an evil god and more.
Alienna was right. The Harpers really would
kill her, once they knew she was pregnant with Bhaal’s mortal progeny.
“It’s not true…” Gorion whispered. “Please tell me… None of this is true, is it? Alienna?”
“After all of the years we’ve spent together, do you really think I’d lie to you about something as heavy as this?”
Gorion said nothing. A thousand protests swelled within him, but they fell away, useless. She was right once again, and Gorion cursed himself for knowing her all too well.
Silence fell in between them, dragging down the air like an anchor tied to a condemned sailor. After a few minutes, Alienna finally turned her back on the mirror and gave Gorion a small, but much warmer smile. A flicker of her old self, just for his sake.
“Forgive me,” she said. “I’ve unloaded a terrible burden on you, haven’t I?”
“Not as terrible as the one you will face…” Gorion found his eyes wandering to Alienna’s womb, where the pulse of a god-child pounded within. Heavens help her.
She followed his gaze and placed her hands over the spot with a wry smirk. “You’re not jealous, are you? Once upon a time, this could have been your child, you know.”
“Must you always rub salt in the wounds you inflict upon me?” Gorion managed a faint smile to show he was teasing, but he could not mask the sadness that came with it. Talking like this, it reminded him too much of days long gone.
He headed for the door, reached for the handle. “I should go. The Harpers will need to hear about this.”
“And right they should,” Alienna agreed. “You truly haven’t changed, Gorion. I am glad for it.”
Glad for it, even knowing that his duty would kill her.
“It will take me a few days to return to headquarters. I suggest you find a new hiding spot before then. I won’t be able to buy you much time.”
“Fear not. He will come for me.”
Gorion nodded, though suppressed a flinch at the thought of her murderous lover.
“Then I suppose… This is goodbye, Alienna.”
“Yes, it is.”
He grasped the door handle, but his fingers froze around its surface. He didn’t want to leave. His body stood statue-still before the door, a hollow husk while his mind traversed the past. The many days they’d spent riding on horseback, and the way their backs pressed against each other in the fray of battle, and their shared laughter around the campfire, and when they’d laid down together on their most tender nights…
How could he have spent so much time and made so many memories with this woman he adored, and be completely unable to save her?
He raised his head and gazed at her one more time. Alienna was smiling again, and this time, it came with all the warmth and love she had once showered on him long ago.
“I wish you safe travels,” she said. “Good luck, arael’sha.” “Heart-friend.”
Despite his grief, Gorion could not help but return her smile.
“And same to you, Alienna.”
Then he disappeared out the door, and out of her life without another word.