Harsov the Harsh (Chapter Twenty One)
Brambleheart snarled in frustration. Even dead, Ironwood was no easy adversary. Any other man when slain, and confronted with the hopelessness of his task would falter. Any other man who had searched for his missing wife for a century, only to find her when he could no longer touch her, would have given in to despair. Any other man who had slain his most tenacious foe, only to be confronted by her once more, would have lost control. Yet Ironwood was NOT any other man.
He was in fact, the only man she had ever met who inspired respect, and admittedly, fear, in her shriveled heart. The one man who she might have considered as a mate, to be honest. Yet he had made it crystal clear from the beginning that his only interest was in his wife, the wretched hag of a human! He, a hero of the greenfolk, of noble birth, who could easily have risen to power among them, desired only to share the pitifully brief love of a human! Such an affront could not go unanswered, of course.
Yet even now, after a century of hatred and loneliness, she knew if he turned to her, and spoke gentle words of love, her withered heart would blossom. He would not, of course. The fool, the wretched, blind fool! What she could have offered him....together, they could have ruled all the Greenfolk, wiped the wretched humans from the land!
But no, he was too honorable, too proud, too rigid, to see what was right in front of his face! He had to loose his spirit, and go wandering the shifting planes of the Netherworld, seeking what he would never find. The idiot! Did he think she had remained "trapped" all those years because she was too weak or foolish to escape?
No, she had been the foolish one. To imagine that if she remained, he might in time come to her. That if she refrained from attacking his people and wreaking havoc, he might give her a chance, an opening to his heart. Instead, he had taken the one action she could not condone. He had ignored her. Even his hatred and vengeance would have been better. THAT at least would have shown emotion! So now she must content herself with taking the only part of him she could ever have.
Abruptly she felt a weakening, even as Ironwood pressed his attack. What...how...?
Elorna's mouth opened, and her voice strained as she screamed, "Get out of me, you foul hag! GET OUT!"
Brokenbranch nearly shouted in exultation. Until this very moment, he had been unsure if anything of Elorna yet lived, or if her spirit had been totally expunged. Now he knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, she yet resided within her body. Now there was true hope. With renewed vigor he fought on. Perhaps between the two of them, Brambleheart could be evicted at the least.
Burning Ash glowered at the flickering flame of his fireplace. Normally, the dancing flames brought him comfort and a sense of security. At the moment, they only served to remind him how he had failed in the simple task of bringing his "son" here.
It was intolerable. The mere thought that a fledgling wizard and two children had dared thwart his design was beyond irritating. A grim smile played at the corners of his lips. He had to admit the lad had pluck, as well as ability. He reminded him of his own youthful self. He had been such a rash, arrogant fool then. Apparently his "son" had inherited those qualities as well.
So, it was time for a bit of subtlety. Obviously the boy had been dabbling with time/distance distortion magic. It was the only way he could have moved across the map so rapidly, and taken the other youths with him. An adept could have transported an entire party for leagues in one jump. Obviously the lad was not in that class. So...likely he would not immediately notice if his transport spell was...enhanced. A slow smile of satisfaction spread across the mage's lips.
If his son would not accept his invitation, and insisted on traveling overland, it was time to accelerate that travel. Patience had never been a virtue he bothered to cultivate.
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