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If Agony Had A Face (Collaboration- Adam Sieghart, The Red Asher-Askendaraudr and Sílrien Ranor)

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The elf’s body is tossed onto the ground and the creature who has maimed her, walks away without looking back. The broken body of Sílrien Ranor lays semi naked on her chest, her limbs splayed out about her. She does not move, though her eyes are open and staring unseeing into a place that only she has knowledge of.

 

The flesh upon her back is a mess of dried blood and roughly hewn surgery, the sutures that haphazardly repaired- just as rough. In her mind, she has memories of such catastrophic and mortal injuries that it would not be possible to survive from them and yet- here she is. Her breath comes in short and ragged gasps- wheezing with each inspiration, speckles of blood accompanying each expiration. She has multiple fractured ribs and yet somehow- by grace of God or by Siclides- she has survived, though still her memories tell her that she should be dead.

 

Pain is a dislocated entity that appears to be happening to some else and very far away. Her mind is—not here. A cough and a froth of bright bubbling blood appears upon her lips, and so. This trusting elf. This creature that saw a speck of good even in the most evil of beasts- even in Siclides- has just learned a very harsh and life changing lesson.

 

As Silrien lay, the earth began to thrum with the noise of something approaching – something impossibly massive. The sounds of the forest at once ceased and became magnified. The air hummed with power – the raw magic that only the greatest of his kin could exude, simply by being. Down into this ruined valley, and through the forest, came the dragon, Askendaraudr.

 

His great breaths were as gales; his footsteps as thunder. His eyes, twin flame-filled orbs, rove across the woods, seeking something. Moments later, the great wyrm had found it: there on the ground, the shattered body of an elf woman. At the sight of her, Askendaraudr let out a long, grim breath. He had witnessed – and been the cause of – many a grisly slaughter across his many hundred years of life, but what had been done to the elf was almost enough to give even him pause.

 

He lowered his head to the treetops, peering at her closely. She yet lived, he could tell. Whether she could be saved or not… that remained to be seen. Folding his enormous forelegs, Askendaraudr sat like an enormous lion, crushing a myriad of trees as he did so, and extended a foreclaw over her prone body, where it hovered, easily bigger than the elf’s entire body. The hum of power in the air increased in vibrance as the dragon began to speak.

 

“Irisvir arcaniss, confn sotsca nomeno jikmadator mamiss vur restore coi ekess ibahalii.”

 

At the magic swimming through the air, Askendaraudr’s eyes narrowed as his suspicions were confirmed. It seemed that in this world, dracomancy was just as functional as in the Encircled Worlds. If anything, he had better control over it now. A fortunate thing; repairing the broken elf’s ribs and back would be an intricate affair. He would have to focus if he didn’t want to leave her crippled afterwards.

 

The dragon’s deep voice rolled and sang like the churnings of fathomless waters, as the arcane healing spiraled downwards into Silrien’s body, spreading across her bones like a balm of magic and song, stabilizing her heart and blood flow, removing the fragments of ribs from her innards, resurrecting what organs had failed her. Askendaraudr’s song continued, rising and falling like the tide:

 

“Dronilnr wer woari spical ekess wer treskri batobot mirjalic astahi, dronilnr wer woari spical ekess wer okarthel astahii mirjal.”

 

As his deep voice rumbled on, his magic began to reforge her ribs, stronger than before, sure and true, while the skin on her back began to slowly creep back together.

 

The sun was going down upon that valley. What had once been green and verdant and filled with the warm breath of Spring, even in Winter, was now a valley where the trees were cracked and warped and filled with rot and decay. Mold and fungi grew on the damp remnants of those arboreal giants. Leaves and blossom had turned to dust and blown away and all about it, the stink from the stagnant stream, turned green with scum and devoid of any life.

 

It was a place of putrescence. The elf lay motionless but for the shallow breaths, each movement of her rib cage causing her pain. The air whined and whistled from her lips, a sound that indicated shattered ribs and a punctured lung. The froth of blood had dried upon her lips but her lids remained open, just a sliver.

 

In a semi conscious haze, punctuated by pain with each breath, she was barely aware of the great beast that had alighted beside her. In her fevered state, her first thoughts were of Siclides, that he had returned to torment her some more. She did not care. All she wished for now was death. A quick and welcome death. That spirit within her that recognized a weaver of magic rose up to join with the mana of that giant creature. The great wyrm would sense the gentle flutter of the dying elf, and then just as suddenly, it was gone- immersed once more in that mortal form that had been ruined so efficiently.

 

There it is. That golden portal made of sand seemingly appears from nowhere before that mighty dragon and ruined elf. Though, no person walks out. No. Instead a ball of flames explodes from it sputtering and burning the air with its intensity and immense magical energies. Into the dragon’s face it will hope to fly to stop its attempts at healing the fallen elf. Out of the portal then flies a young pale man who’s blazing red eyes shined bright with and anger, and who’s bleached hair fluttered wildly in the wind. His feet carry him over to the elf as a sword materializes in his hand.

 

“Get away from her!”

 

He roars as he charges the beast looking to slice its finger off to separate it from the elf if the fireball did not work. Seems a horrible misunderstanding is occurring

 

The flame exploded harmlessly against the gigantic fire dragon’s snout. Askendaraudr blinked, his eyes fixing on the young man like twin suns. He didn’t seem angry – yet – only intrigued, if a little annoyed. Lifting his claw away from Silrien and Adam, the dragon stood, his mountain-sized body rising above the forest and looming over the boy and the elf, casting a monstrous shadow and blotting out the sun. Askendaraudr glared down at the young warrior who had dared cast fire at him – and had struck at his claw.

 

“You, then?” Came his rumbling voice, rippling through the woods and reverberating in Adam’s chest.

 

“You are the one who has hurt her thus?” A flame of his own flickered in the Red Asher’s cavernous maw – enough to engulf this entire valley in an inferno.

 

“I am in the midst of repairing her broken body. Interfere again, and I will not suffer you to stand in my way.”

 

Between the two creatures, in the cold and the slime of liquid mud, in what was left of her valley, was the mutilated form of the fragile elf. She had taken more than could be expected of anyone, but Siclides was a clever tormentor, dancing with her, upon the jarred notes of agony, taking her to the absolute brink of death, before playfully dragging her back into heat and ruin and rupture.

 

It was all a game to him. A delicious, torturous game.

 

The spirit of that elf was adrift in that state that her people call Q’yaar, the merest thread holding her energy to the mortal coil and even then, her consciousness tugged at it, hoping to breech that cord and allow her at last some peace. Her body shudders. There is something else drawing her back. A bright and scintillating power that she would find a fascination if her situation was not so dire.

 

It was of immeasurable size and power and she had felt nothing like it in this space before. A breath stretches her ribcage with a long gasp. A wound upon the flesh of her spine, roughly sutured by what appears to be cheesewire, stretched, expands, bursts and blood once more start to flow. Returning to those shallow little gasps, her lungs protest against this continued vitality.

 

Adam smirks. A near suicidal smirk spreading across his face. His bright red eyes darken as the heat within him shifts from a normal flame to a much more powerful energy of land scorching heat.

 

“Me do this? Please…” He takes a step forward over the elf not noticing her movements as his attention is entirely on the massive beast that dares to look down upon him as if he be an ant.

 

“Healing huh? Well sorry to bust your bubble, but I’ll be taking over from here. Just run along and eat a village. My patience is thin.” His voice is nothing but cocky and full of pride. As if he feared such a beast. Even the flames gathering within its maw did not deter him.

 

“I won’t ask again.”

 

A declaration of war if neither stands down. He’s had enough of finding the elf in a broken state. Nothing can be trusted at this point. Only he can protect her. Save her. He has no trust in nothing else to watch over her.

 

“Ah. A valiant warrior, I see. And a fool. Can you not see that this woman will die if we continue this charade?”

 

Now thoroughly annoyed, the dragon reached over Adam and seized the elf, holding her carefully between two gigantic claws. His wings, stretching nearly the entire width of the valley, unfurled. He turned and cast a glance back, his eyes ablaze.

 

“Come, self-important child; we’ve no time to waste. Either climb onto my back and help me heal her, away from this… unhealthy place, or go your way. I will not have you compromise her with your chest-puffing.”

 

The Red Asher crouched, like a cat ready to spring. The fin-like tip of his tail, harder than steel and sharp-edged, lay flat before Adam. An invitation, to be taken or left. Healing her here would do no good – these woods were as poison to her, for reasons that Askendaraudr didn’t yet know. If the boy could truly help save her, he’d be more use coming along than not.

 

It was difficult to discern what had actually happened to this creature of the natural world. Lay with her face propped sideways in the mud, the flesh running down her spine tattered with two deep wounds from neck to buttocks that had appeared, quite honestly, like someone had tried to remove her spine. Flesh that was pale as Seldarine was almost black with bruising.

 

Those wounds, fixed with whatever the torturer could find, thread, wire, nails. It was some unholy or deranged surgeon that had done this to her. That bright spirit, still trying to fight her way out of the prison of her cerebral cortex. The great wyvern would sense it like a butterfly in a cage, beating itself against the bars in an effort for one last breath of freedom.

 

The great claw encloses about her, causing pressure and more pain, and more anguish. The breath is sucked in once more in a loud, rattling whine as though it were her last. She was in such a state. That spark, dancing in the Q’yaar, showed the dragon and his magic what had happened to this creature. A being of such evil had torn her flesh, broken bone, snapped ribs and drawn out her lungs to play with her still beating heart as though it were a cat worrying a moth. Sickening- as was the behavior of Adam- who foolishly was wasting precious time.

 

What do people expect from Adam? He’s a warrior. A knight raised in war. Molded by trials. Most of all though, he’s a child. A child who’s shouldered too many responisibles for anyone his age to have to bear. Yet, he continues adding more and more weight. The dragon’s words only succeed at angering him. His eyes turning darker as his body seemed to crack and melt. This is how he truly is.

 

A teen easily angered by trivial things who lets his emotions drive his actions far too much for his own good. Others would say different though as they recall the level headed maturity that he displays all the time. A facade. That’s all it is. A facade created accidentally by him due to a horrible experiment. An experiment that has been corrected for a while now.

 

Though, he still shows signs of the level headedness that far exceeds his age as suddenly the heat around him is gone. The glow in his eyes faded. He still showed his disdain for the beast, but it seems nothing here is in his side. Nothing here understands how he feels. What would be the point in raging just for the elf to look down at him for giving in to his emotions.

 

No point at all.

 

With his head hanging low, he begrudgingly climbs up he beasts tails onto its back. No words are spoken, but the malevolence coming from him is sickening. The things he do to save the lives of fools who can’t keep this selves out of these situations.

 

Askendaraudr’s eyes blazed – in recognition, understanding, and something resembling sympathy. How young was this fiery mage? He couldn’t have been older than eighteen, the dragon thought. The elf’s situation – and the reasons behind it – had all become quite clear.

 

Time was of the essence, and if this boy could help them, then his belligerence was of little import. Those massive red wings flexed before sweeping down in conjunction with Askendaraudr’s sudden skyward leap, carrying Silrien betwixt two claws and Adam on his back. He could have flown faster, but he didn’t want to dislodge the boy, or let the elf slip.

 

In truth, all he sought was understanding – of this world, and its functions. Having sensed the elf’s power, she had seemed as likely as anyone to be able to inform him. Which she couldn’t do if she were dead. That, and her suffering had bothered the dragon greatly.

 

The earth and clouds whipped by as the Red Asher soared, refraining from roaring. Drawing attention to themselves – at least, attention beyond what the sight of a colossal dragon in the sky would already attract – would not do. Minutes later, Askendaraudr alighted in the gap between two mountains, where a stream gave way to a spring concealed from the rest of the world.

 

Here was pure water, pure nature; a suitable place for powerful healing magic to do its work. The dragon gently set Silrien down on her stomach, leaving her still-ruined back facing up, and crouched to let Adam off.

 

“Here,” he said. “This place will suffice, if any will. Boy, if you have healing magic, now is the time to bring it forth.”

 

 

There was no pain. No anguish. Both- a distant and dislocated memory. Drawn high into the skies, born ever upwards by the magnificent stretch of dragonic pennon, wind whipping through the bedraggled remains of her hair, the rush of displaced air. It was a journey that would have held such joy for the elven woman had it been in happier circumstances- had she been aware.

 

Brightness and joy is what she was experiencing within that state of grace and serenity. Surrounded by a display of corruscation that transcended peace. Her ancestors had come to take her home. The wyrm, this ancient being of power that graced skies with elegant terror would sense this woman’s will slipping slowly away and would know that they had very little time left.

 

But to Silrien Ranor- the alien from another world, out of place and time- would it not be a fitting end to an existence that for the last few terrifying months of her life, had been a tapestry of discovery, an experiment in pain. The elf had tried to find her place, but none had ever been truly accepting of that grace. There were those who gathered about her- but she had always been sentenced to solitude since arriving in Hellifyno, always seeking a way home and to this end, she would never find it.

 

She was ready.

 

This would be a better place indeed. Wedging his great body comfortably between the two mountains, Askendaraudr flexed his claws and began his incantation anew, having to start differently in order to compensate for the body he’d already healed and any new injuries their sudden flight might have caused her.

 

“Dastudr, return vur tiichi nomeno vrak di tobor. trekis, zhren vur weave nomeno vrak ulph iejir.”

 

His voice, like liquid fire in the air, became magic shaped by his indomitable will – a will that was now forcing death out of the elf’s body, and filling it with life and breath. The damage to her lungs was repaired; her shattered bones, reforged and regrown; the flayed skin of her back, tended to. Whether Adam was contributing to the spell’s effectiveness, Askendaraudr could not say; but in any case, the elf was steadily being drawn away from the danger of eternal sleep. At this point, she had at the very least been stabilized.

 

“Ileisgar vur vebren mrith z’ar ixen.”

 

Off Adam jumps. What a smooth ride that was. He sighs appreciating the few minutes he had to cool down. The wind that had battered his face was much needed. Without any word though, he moves away from them sitting off to the side. His magic is selfish. A magic that refused to work along side others.

 

It would only hinder the dragons attempts at healing by swallowing his magic whole. His healing ability isn’t all that great anyway. Too slow. Too tiring. He still couldn’t trust the giant reptile, but for now, he stays quiet and calm. His red eyes staying on the scene before him ready to act if needed.

 

 

Atom bonded with atom. Strands of molecules gathered about those shattered fibres, the matrix upon which her mortal form was concentrated, now no longer under any control but that of the Dragon. His words sang out like thunder, bending the Verse to his will until those structures within her body would hear his cry and submit.

 

Brightness- a blinding brightness of peace and love and a place where pain did not exist. Invisible hands gather that elven spirit to take her onwards into that concord of felicitious union but obscured by a tug as she would journey no further. A fixation. An anchor. Desperate to join that peace, her spirit would strain against it, until that to would submit.

 

Darkness. A endless inky nothing as it retreated back into the corporeal existence where suddenly there was pain, there was agonies of which she would fight against. Blossoming with each ragged gasp. Why? She had made her peace and so as fibre fixes, muscle bonds with bone. Fissures flourish no more. “Sicut superius et inferius”.

 

In this time, in this place, chest expands with life giving oxygen in one intake of desperate yearning. A paroxysm of distress. At that moment- lids fly open and stare with disbelief at the grass that grows beside those emerald oculars.

 

She is alive.

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