Ailwen's Dead

"The Sea-hags are attacking the harbour!"
The call we were expecting had arrived, and the battle-hardened warriors, mages, incantors and healers rushed to defend Gavelle once more. At their head was the Lord of Gavelle; Ailwen, and his lovely bride of scant hours, Foreign Minister Rowan, Lady of Gavelle. At their tail, wearily assembling my belongings, having just returned from Rockholme, was myself. I am Evandar, Elven healer, trader, journeyman vintner, and proud father to Rowan´s apprentice, Elmeira the Fair. This is what I saw and thought and felt on that day.

I got to my feet, going slow to arrive when needed, and noticed the Tankard of the Sea-King, abandoned in the rush. "Ah" thinks I, "probably going to need that if we´re fighting by the sea." So I scoop it up and place it discreetly under my cloak, following after the defenders.

On the way I meet Princess Akasha, recovering from the ordeal of giving birth to the twins, Malachi and Josephine. I inform her of the attack and she, in turn, tells me that the Tankard is empty of magic. So, when I arrive at the battle, after checking for my daughter´s safety, I seek out Queen Adelena and ask her for advice.

"The Tankard! Yes, that's what they´re after, you know," says she.

"Probably don´t want it around here then," says I.

"Go hide it, Evandar," says she.

Just then a call comes. It is Elmeira calling my name. I see Rowan down and guarded by Barratt. I hesitate. My daughter needs me. The Queen has ordered me. I turn away. There are other healers.

Looking for a hiding place, I spy a Sea-hag in the ritual circle. Hastily I move out of sight and bury the tankard, then return to warn the Queen. Too late. The circle is sealed and full of enemies. Worse news is revealed. Ailwen teleported from the battle with Mog. Was he inside? A scream of "No!" from Rowan confirms our fears. His limp body is seen. The Sea-hags beat and crush it into a bloody mess. He bleeds from every limb. Mog fares better but can do nothing. The trade becomes clear. The Tankard for two lives.

I retrieve the Tankard, and while others trade, prepare to heal Ailwen, who´s life is preserved by a Sea-hag chanting sanctuary. I spy a glow from the ground beneath him. A ritual circle tastes the blood of its master.

The trade is made, and I rush to heal Ailwen as the seal comes down. His body is mangled and distorted. Dragging him backwards from the circle, the sea-hag breaks the sanctuary and retreats with his fellows. I feel the life leave Ailwen. In desperation I pour all of my energies into him, drawing more from the Yew trees nearby that connect me to the Plane of Life. Rowan rushes to my side, to the husband she has no more time to know. An Elven love-bond is a dangerous thing. Two lives were at risk here as I knew only too well. But one was beyond saving.

"Ailwen!" Rowan calls, reaching to embrace him.

"I´m sorry," I whisper, "there was nothing I could do."

"No! He can´t be! He lives! Save him Evandar, you can save him!"

I break. Rowan wails and drags her husband into her arms. In tears I say "There is nothing. He is dead. Ailwen is dead." I stand and stumble away into the forest.

I have never trusted Yews. They defy the seasons with false life. They kill plant and animal alike to live alone and unmolested. Once out of the Yew grove that forms the ritual circle of Gavelle, my thoughts rage less fiercely at my failure. I touch an Oak.

"Heart and breath, you knew the way," I hear. The Oak speaks to me? No. The voice was old. Older than the Oak and generations of Oaks before it. As old as...

The Heart of the Forest? It cannot be! No Heart has spoken in the lifetime of any Elf I know. But this is the Forest of Gavelle, and the blood of the Lord of Gavelle feeds the Yews of the grove, and seeps into the magic of the circle.

"Heart and breath!" I shout. "Curse me for a senile old Elf! How could I have forgotten?"

I rush back to Ailwen, dragging him flat to the ground from Rowan´s startled grasp. The heart must beat and the mouth must breathe. I start to pump Ailwen's chest, forcing the heart to beat.

"Rowan, you must breathe for him."

"There is hope?"

"Do it! Breathe into him, count to three, then do it again."

I check for his beat. Nothing. I check for his breath. Nothing. On we go, I the heart, Rowan the breath. How long? I check for signs again. Nothing. No thought of giving up. I call for physicians. He still loses precious blood from his legs, squeezed by my beating of his heart. An Incantor pours ancestral light and life into him.

I check. Nothing.

On we work. Doubts beseige me. Did I remember it correctly? Am I going too fast? Too slow? Pains shoot up my arms from the effort of being another Elf's heart. I am a fat, old Elf, mind wasted away by the despair I fear Rowan must suffer. I cannot keep going much longer!

Rowan breathes her love into Ailwen. I feel the bond for a moment, a physical thing, the purest magic, seemingly matched by a surge of power from the circle.

Then. Ailwen Lives!

I cannot say what brought Ailwen back from beyond this plane. Of one thing alone am I certain, as we carry his deeply sleeping body slowly back to my farm in Lyonesse. The Lord of Gavelle is loved by both the land he rules and the Lady who has not let go of his hand since.

As written By Evandar of the Kith Rhae

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