Dominions of Glory: 3
Okay, so nobody gets confused: Dominions of Glory: 1 and Dominions of Glory: 2. Read up folks, we're going to be here a while.
The amber sun hung a hair above the eastern horizon and Baelin had been out in his fields for a solid two hours and was exhausted. He wasn't exhausted because the work was too difficult, but because he hadn’t been able to sleep. Part of that he attributed to anxiousness, brought on by Dilirian appearance, but mostly, it was due to Magic. Magic called loud and frequently in his mind. And when he was about to sleep, its voice was especially clear to him. It begged to be used for something, anything. The pleading was more fervent than Baelin could ever remember, aside from possibly when he’d very first used it, unwittingly.
And here he was, day upon him, and Magic’s voice still droned on in the background, giving him glimpses of how it might be used. Today, it showed him a cellar full of fine foods for the winter, which was odd, since Baelin had learned long ago that making food with magic was all but impossible. He could make grain –one at a time– but that was about it. Anything else, especially meats, looked the part, but tasted… well, wrong. He could find no explanation for this. It just seemed Magic had issues dealing with stuff that was supposed to have been alive.
A squeal like a butchered pig came from the stand of grain ahead of him and before he could put his eyes on its source, a blur of black was on him, gnawing at his ear. He bumbled around, groped for his sword with one hand as he tore the creature off his head with the other. His sword made a metallic ring as it pulled free and he swiped as he flung the creature away, leaving a gash across its middle.
For a brief moment he got an image of himself, standing there bleeding from his ear, but the vision was red, filled with pain, and from a lower view.
A warm trickle of blood ran down the side of his head, flowing then onto his shirt. The little bugger he’d thrown off him looked like something of a cross between a bat and a very large squirrel, only much more sinister. Its head was unmistakably the same as the one Dilirian had shown him the night before, with a jutting crimson horn protruding from the chin.
Baelin, still reeling in pain lashed out again, his lunge taking him just far enough forward that a second creature flew right past where his head had been. He made a clumsy stab at the devil he’d already injured, and missed. He stabbed again, twisting his ankle on a loose stone in the process, and killed the devil, his sword wide enough to nearly cut the body in twain.
As the thing died, a vague impression of a mountain cave came into his mind, as well as the impression of incredible, sweet pain. He couldn’t feel the pain, and he certainly would never have called pain sweet, but that was the feeling that entered his mind.
With his ankle twisted and suddenly throbbing, he fell to his side, pulling his sword free and rolling away, desperately looking around for the other devil. It found him first.
He shouted as he felt a deep stab in his leg, the uninjured one. The second devil had its chin horn stuck firmly into the meat of his calf, its clawed hands already in motion to shred what was left.
Baelin rolled again, the horn stabbed deeper into his leg, and a wave of red washed over his vision, but he bore the pain and used his leg to keep the devil pinned. Mustering all the steadiness he could, he jabbed with his sword at the devil, piercing its side and jiggling the blade about until it stopped moving.
Again a vision came into his mind, a handsome man with brooding eyes sitting beside a fire. He looked displeased and was muttering something under his breath. The vision came and was gone in an instant, but remained solid in his memory.
Convinced the devil was finally dead, Baelin twisted and pulled the creature off his leg, revealing a neat hole that was pulsing blood into the field. It was a matter of careful and painful minutes until he had his head and leg bandaged with what had been his shirt. He stood up –barely– using his sword as a poor crutch, as it dug into the dirt. He wobbled and his vision blurred momentarily, but he righted himself and took off limping back to his home.
Walking on a leg with a hole in it and a twisted ankle was almost enough to black him out, but he held on, knowing he was likely never to wake up if he fell over out in his own fields. If anyone found him, it would likely be after he’d turned to bones.
He reached his house and stumbled inside, groping along the walls to keep him up until he found a wine bottle. He uncorked it with his teeth and poured the strong liquid onto the right ear and on his leg. The alcohol burned fierce, combined with the ache in his ankle and the almost uselessness of his leg, he fell into a heap on the floor, breathing heavy. The wine bottle tipped on its side, its contents leaking onto the perfect, polished wood. He grabbed the bottle and quickly drank the rest of its contents.
And then he sat, panting, aching, vision fading. His vision was becoming hazy and black when Dilirian walked in. Baelin had never been so happy to see another person in his entire life.
“Baelin!” Dilirian gently grabbed Baelin’s face and shook it. “Baelin! Look at me.”
Baelin tried to focus his eyes, but everything was going in and out of focus. Suddenly nauseous, he vomited the only direction he could with Dilirian holding his head in place, which was on Dilirian’s chin, and all over the front of himself.
Dilirian moved back, going out of focus. He made a lot of noises, Baelin couldn’t make out what they meant, if anything. His head lolled to the side and he sat, rancid and bile filled drool seeping from the corner of his mouth.
The next he knew, he was being hefted up, the ground swayed beneath him and he retched again.
The warmth of fresh sunlight crossed over him. He ached and burned and felt cold all at once. And how he hurt, his side hurt, like something was jammed into it, and his head was rolled to the side and bobbing quickly up and down. The world passed by in a blur of green, brown, and blue, all hazy and indistinct except for a few moments of clarity when he could clearly make out the road, and later when he saw some building ahead.
And then he was set down on something soft, fluffy. He thought he might sink into it, but he didn’t. Despite the pain, a smile crept to his face and he muttered a, “Thank you,” before nestling up to what he presumed was a pillow so he could go to sleep and escape the pain.
“No,” a misty voice said. “You can’t sleep now, Baelin.”
Cold liquid covered his head, bringing him momentarily and violently back to his senses, the burning, the cold, and the aching, all at once. His eyes snapped back into focus and he saw Dilirian standing over him again.
“Forden’s grabbing someone to help,” he said, his glaze locked onto Baelin’s. “You need to stay focused until they get back. Okay?” Baelin was too exhausted to respond. “Baelin, stay focused on me, okay?”
Baelin grunted a yes and kept his eyes locked on Dilirian’s. My, he had a pretty face. Exactly the type of face a girl would fancy. It wasn’t fair. Baelin didn’t have a face girls fancied. None of the girls he’d met ever paid him much attention.
“You’re drifting,” Dilirian said, bring Baelin back with a small slap. “Sorry,” he said. “Just stay awake.”
Baelin nodded and absently put a hand to his head, feeling the blood and wine soaked shirt he had for bandaging. He thought he could feel his ear beneath it, torn and ragged, but maybe that was just his imagination.
Magic spoke in the back of his mind, letting him know he’d be okay. Baelin found this funny. Magic was so silly; it wasn’t as if it could heal him. At that thought he felt a warm rush come and go through his body, just for an instant. His eyes shot open wide and he lost all his senses and was floating in black.
When his vision came back Forden was standing beside Dilirian, they were both a step back as an older woman he knew he should know leaned in towards him and unwrapped the bandage about his head.
“Oh dear,” she said, gingerly touching his ruined ear.
Even the gentle prods sent fire lancing through Baelin’s head. “Don’t touch it,” he mumbled.
“No more than I have to,” she said. He saw with horror that she was pulling out a needle and thread.
“Best drink this,” she said, offering him a small clay jar, maybe half a pint. He drank it without hesitation, hoping it was something to kill the pain. A few minutes later he realized it was going to knock him out, and he wondered why he’d had to try so hard to stay awake…