Lharvion 1, 1423
Little more than an hour after the ferocious encounter with the devilish creature covered in chains, Eiremis and his companions were setting up camp for the night. It didn’t take long to get the fire going and assign watch shifts, and before he knew it, Eiremis was sound asleep in his bedroll, his arms hugging his belongings almost covetously.
It had been weeks since he’d last had a dream about her, though what was to replay in his mind that night was more a nightmare than anything. The scene slowly faded into view through the darkness until it was impossibly lucid.
He and Branwen were walking slowly down the cobblestone path leading through the center of one of the largest parks in Kingdale. His arm wrapped around her waste, he caught sideways glances at the peaceful look on her face as she looked out ahead of them at the trees, smiling gently every time her eyes shifted to focus on something new.
The hem of her dress danced lazily in the light breeze. It was made of some of the finest fabric, accentuating her natural beauty with its joyful light blue color, and draped effortlessly over her perfect frame. Of all of Branwen’s clothes, Eiremis was most entranced by this dress. It was thin enough that he could feel the edge of her hip through it while concealing her delicate, porcelain skin from his view.
The two of them soon reached the fountain in the center of the park. The sound of the water splashing into the pool at the bottom of the fountain was delightfully relaxing, and the two of them stopped to share a moment. Branwen was about a head shorter than Eiremis, forcing him to stoop slightly to kiss her. It was something he was more than willing to deal with, however. Her arms wrapped around his chest tightly as they embraced and let the kiss escalate little by little. Branwen’s eyes were half-open and she sighed and started to giggle as Eiremis ran his fingers through her long hair.
Leaning back from the kiss, Eiremis said plainly and sincerely, “I love you Branwen Weaver.”
“I love you too, Eiremis. But you should really get used to the sound of ‘Branwen Vandril’. There is less than half of a day left before we say our vows.”
Eiremis smiled and kissed her again.
Coming out of the kiss, Branwen repositioned herself at Eiremis’ left and put his hand on her hip where it belonged, casting a glance his way all the while. “We should probably get back home soon. Big day and all.”
“Right you are, beautiful,” Eiremis replied as they resumed their walk back the way they came.
The night was silent. Seemingly more so than it had been just minutes earlier. There were no frogs croaking or crickets chirping now.
Eiremis felt the hard surface of a club connect with the middle of his back. He crumbled to the ground in pain as Branwen backed away quickly, a scream stuck in her throat. It didn’t matter, as a gloved hand quickly covered her mouth and her arms were restrained from behind. She wanted to close her eyes as two men beat Eiremis with their wooden clubs, throwing in a kick here and there to emphasize their point, “Stay down if you know what’s good for ya!”
Eiremis tried feebly to push himself from the ground, just to feel another blow from the clubs hammer down on his shoulders. He was sure that they had broken something in his back. Before long, he could barely move. He coughed and wheezed as the two men laughed, backing away slowly.
With all of his might, he turned his eyes toward his attackers, rolling his body over so he could point his hands at them. He mumbled a word or two, but couldn’t complete the incantation before the hazy image of his attackers closed in on him once again. One of their clubs found its home on the arch of his shoulder, sending a chilling stillness through the rest of his body. He slumped over helplessly onto the roots of a tree, his eyes locked on the grisly image before him.
A red-haired man was tearing at Branwen’s dress as she tried with all of her might to fight him off. His tough, gloved hands bruised her skin as they clenched down around her limbs. Eiremis was forced to watch as the three men took turns forcing themselves upon his fiancee. He couldn’t even feel the tears pouring from his glazed eyes.
When the deed was done, they gave her a beating as well. Her puffy, red eyes were barely noticable behind her blackened face. One man with a head of red hair laughed with satisfaction as he stuffed himself back into his pants. He went around and held her chin, forcing her to look at Eiremis’ crumpled body. Eiremis felt like there were miles between them now. The night seemed uncommonly filled with white light, but he fought on, not wanting to leave his beloved behind. He watched her act in defiance against her tormentor, biting his index finger with all of her might and severing it with a ferocious jerk.
“You savage bitch!” The red-haired man screamed as he ripped a jagged dagger from his bootstrap, and plunging it into her chest twice.
Her lifeblood poured across the cobblestone as she released a sickening whimper of pain.
The red-haired man turned and looked at Eiremis. He seemed to sense that Eiremis was still alive somehow and gave him a wicked smile. Blood poured from the man’s wound at an alarming rate, but he soon found missing part and proceeded to wrap a strip of cloth from Branwen’s dress around it to staunch the bleeding. “Thanks for the treat,” he said as he and his two accomplices walked away jauntily.
Eiremis stayed there for what seemed like hours before he could feel his limbs come back to life. Dragging his broken body across the cobblestone, against the pain that wracked his very being, Eiremis finally reached Branwen’s side. Her eyes were wide open, but there was no one there. He reached up with his left hand and gently closed them.
“Let’s just rest for a while,” he said as he grasped her hand tightly. He could feel the wounds on her knuckles from when she’d tried to fight them off. The skin was broken and slightly sticky from the dried blood.
As Eiremis stared off in the distance, he watched a raven land on a tree limb some ten feet away. It was a curious-looking bird with its thick beak and a small scar over its right eye. It called out into the night like birds of its type do before setting its sights on the two of them. There was something sad in the way it watched them, tilting its head to the side every few seconds as though it were trying to analyze the situation.
The raven continued to watch as Eiremis gave into his pain and drifted off into a deep slumber in effort to forget about what had transpired here.
The next day Eiremis awoke abruptly, his breathing heavy and with a severe pain in his back. He did his best to massage his back as he rose from his bed. The others were already awake and busy with their morning routines.