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Seven Nights

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Deer by SurgeonWolf





Imperial hands set upon the fallen High Prince, his nostrils and lungs rendered aching by his last breath of sea-water in his bold attempt for escape. Once before the elf had been consumed by the shallows of the bay surrounding Aegrothond. Now in Arcas, he was dragged under and into unwitting slumber, freed from his drowned state only to be bound and dragged into a slender Imperial schooner. Mounting cries from Elven militia, Fennic soldiers would prelude the fall of the captor’s vanguard. Time had been bought for the captor and his prize - the High Prince Fëanor Sylvaeri.


This elf did dream. Where darkness smote out the light of his eyes and dizzied him with each step. His lungs would burn, and the heat of many hearths burnt upon his back, pressing him down and drying him to bone. He was without water, without rations, and the ache of thirst and food might drive a man mad. The elf would find himself before the threshold of his childhood’s home, and a voice from within bade him enter.


“Rest, my son,” asked the voice of his tired mother. And so he did.


The first night was over, the prince retrieved from foreign shores. His people and allies were relieved and they did rejoice in his safety, for he bore no mortal wounds but two swollen bumps atop his scalp. Yet he did not wake.


When he dreamed again, fire crept through his body, trickling beneath the silvered plating of the elf. For he was young, careless, and knew not the dangers of the Twisted Ones. Sinewy olive skin rippling with its unholy flames, its hatred marked by its terrible sclera and demonic gaze - red like the coals with which the smith worked, and as potent to burn. Burn he would, for a minute or more - but the fire would persist through his soul and every nerve, that it might torture him for a lifetime. He would keep Abyzou’s Khopesh for a time, and keep the hatred of the Infernal forevermore; for because of them he would only know agony for a decade.


“Rest, nephew,” advised a warlord, now lost to the Wilds. And he did rest.


The second night followed. A worried healer and bride kept close vigil over him, and the people waited. He did not wake.


He next dreamed of the Atlas seas, scorching heat trying the nerves of the bronze-plated elf as he sailed North. He remembered the pain of the second betrayal to his family, which would take advantage of his patient. The Warlord did stir but not wake in the simple vessel, each but one of his limbs broken and his visage mauled. He lived by mediocre field aid and a sling to preserve his good arm. By this, The Warlord would keep an arm - but lose all else to clockwork. He would know the dulled thud of each limb as they hit the laboratory floor. And he would turn away to the clinic, where the weight of betrayal and grief did test his resolve.


“Rest, Flameborne,” urged his father, in a careful half-embrace. And he did rest.


The third night fell, and the bruises of his harrowing ordeal were cleared away. His wife kept vigil, and the people inquired. Still, he did not wake.


The elf dreamed then of ash and mud. Feverish nightmares which could end in few ways for the elf - talons ripping his innards apart for the sake of the Wild Gods. Riddles answered with druidic terms he did not love to use. For he was pale though dark in hair, too tall, and his eyes did glow. They were not his people, and so he took company in others. One, a small woman once close to Light, and a mage whose gifts would be his salvation more than once.


“Rest, llir,” his best friends guided him down. And he rested gladly.


The fourth night fell. His wife and the people worried. But he did not wake.


He would dream of the strife brought by the Elven Crown and all its competitors. And he forged for himself a bronze circlet, a test. But it did not ease the weary gazes of those around him, for his father was Outcast, and his whole line of ancestors Outcast. He would stay for his soldiers and for those sacrificed by the Dominion’s father. Father. He would know the paranoia brought by those that would pierce the Veil, the madness of those who delved into it. Or into purple trees or September Cultists. He would know war.


“Rest, Lord Sylvaeri,” bade a druidess of Ironwood. And he did reluctantly.


The fifth night. No word of his waking travelled the Realm of Elves.


He would dream of murk and roots. The days of chasing dreams would come to end, for there was no glory, no use in throwing himself away for a futile dream. Truth and wisdom would come from the earth, for it was more true, more safe than the vast sky, which often carried calamity on the winds and with the passing of time. There was no trusting the stars. For they had betrayed his ancestor and his father and mother. He would be made wise by cruel, bloody truths; in the killing of many beasts at land and sea.


“Rest,” whispered the roots. And he did so, numb and cold.


The sixth night passed.


He would dream of the sea. He would float adrift, accompanied by the trills of dolphins. The sun would set and stars speckle the following darkness. Seven nights would pass in this dream, phases of cold, then hot. And upon the fifth day he knew the pattern, and saw the constellation of the Mariner. On the sixth eve he awaited it. But on the seventh eve, the stars did separate and fall. Then there was no sky or sea. There was no land. Only he, the darkness and the stars remained. They glowed as his eyes, silver and persistent - but they began to burn away, and only one remained, as it cast itself into the depths.


Then from his own mouth, he said, “Rest.” And he knew his folly.


On the seventh eve, when midnight passed, a noise was heard from the elf’s bed chambers. The taste of brine and the still airs of his room sickened him, but he did not heave or bend. His wife, dutiful, faithful, and kind would guide him to rest and be certain of his health.


“Rest,” she said with love. And though he would, he felt he had slept for a generation. The word soon travelled of his good health, and soon after it travelled of his work. It was said he could gleam stars from steel.


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