tagSci-Fi & FantasyFreedom Pt. 11: Catriona

Freedom Pt. 11: Catriona

byWhimsicalRepertoire©

No sex! Only story.

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Freedom Part 11: Catriona

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A portal of purple flames shimmered into existence in one of Catriona's market squares, releasing three travelers from its bond. It snapped out of existence just as quickly, leaving a man, an elf, and a sorceress atop a large, checkered square. The teleporter had no use for the teleportation square she currently stood atop, but figured the portal would make less of a disruption if it appeared there rather than somewhere else.

The man, wearing his bloodied war-torn leathers and chain, looked around. No one had paid them much mind; sorceresses traveling via portal was quite the common occurence in the City of Mages, after all. He stepped off the teleportation square, patting his armor down, then glanced towards his elven lover. She had never removed her gaze from him.

"I think I'll need a new change of clothes, lest someone make me for a bandit," he smirked. She strode towards him, placing a hand on his shoulder. In a flash of light, the man's leather and chain was replaced with clean cloth. He smiled, then glanced towards Tatiana.

"So... do you know where the sorceresses here live? We're looking for one."

Tatiana giggled, shaking her head. "Everywhere. It's Catriona, Talos. You can try..." she trailed off, shifting her gaze towards the bay. She pointed towards an island off in the water, with a large castle atop it, shining brightly in the evening sun. "You can try the bayside district, near the College. That would be your best bet."

"Sure," Talos nodded. Casiama hugged him tightly, refusing to let him go any longer. Tatiana shifted her gaze between the two, sighing audibly.

"I, um... will leave you both to it," she murmured, kneeling beside her black kitty, stroking his fur once.

"Thank you, Tatiana. For everything," Talos said genuinely.

She nodded quickly, unclasping Dusk's collar. She gently lifted it from him, getting a whine from the cat, which was remedied by another stroke of his fur. Tatiana handed the collar to the man when she found her feet.

"Um... here. Please take this," she said breathlessly. He did, pursing his lips as he looked it over. A small, black amulet was fixed to the leather of the collar, stamped with a stylized 'T'.

"I-its a memento," Tatiana stammered, "to remember me by. Please don't lose it. Keep it safe."

"I will," Talos promised, pocketing it for now. He wouldn't have anything else to give in return. "Will we see you again?"

"Yes," Tatiana immediately replied, chiding herself for her lack of mystery. "I mean... I will find you again. Someday. Someday soon."

The man rolled his head, unsure how she planned on finding him. He had far too much on his mind at the moment to ask. "Looking forward to it, Tatiana. Thank you again."

-=-=-

It didn't take long for Talos and Casiama to pick up Alanna's scent. It seemed every sorceress they asked knew of her, and had nothing but good things to say of her friendliness and courage. The news was nothing unexpected to Talos, but he was surprised by the omnipresence of her fame.

It also didn't take long to find a sorceress willing to escort the pair to Alanna's sister's house, where she was apparently staying. Talos thanked the sorceress for the assistance, then strode up the staircase towards the front door.

This was it. He had been avoiding this very moment for months now. He knocked on the door after a deep breath.

It was soon answered by a young woman; mid-twenties, brown of hair and blue of eyes. Her face was rounded just like Alanna's was, but lacked the sorceress's charm. Her sister, Talos guessed.

"Hello?" she greeted, her gaze quickly bouncing between Talos and Casiama. It stopped when she reached the man's eyes. "It's... you. Talos, right?"

He nodded. Was she expecting him? "Yeah. Greetings, er?"

She smiled, opening the door wider. "I knew it! He has the same eyes as you. I'm Maria, Alanna's sister. Come in, come in."

They made their way inside with that friendly offer, Casiama getting a glancing glare as she stepped inside. The woman walked towards the stairwell just in front of the door, cupping her mouth.

"Alanna," she shouted, "they're here!" The woman smiled when she turned back towards them, assuaging Talos' confused glance. "Alanna warned me you might come by this eve."

"Ah," he nodded. "Sure." How in all the hells could she know that?

The thought gave Talos pause, and it meandered through his troubled mind as he waited the half-minute or so it took for Alanna to appear at the top of the stairs. She held a bundle of blankets in her arms, and a tired-yet-satisfied grin as she stepped towards him. A bundle of joy.

"He's... already..." Talos muttered in awe, walking towards the wondrous sight with arms outstreched. Alanna nodded, holding a prideful grin, as she stepped down on to the landing in front of him.

"Just two weeks ago," she said, answering a question unasked. "Meet your son, Talos. He has your name."

His heart skipped a beat upon the revelation, an unexpected yet welcomed sensation. He knew he had a son. He knew Alanna would have bore it. But why, when he finally witnessed something so innocent, so vulnerable, did he only now feel that he had participated in the endeavor? He took the babe in his arms, hoping not to break the fragile soul. He was light, perhaps a couple of pounds. Green eyes shone happily on green eyes.

And just like that, Talos felt as if he had stepped into a world entirely alien. He was the invader here; a wandering, homeless brute, too accustomed to the harshness of the road to appreciate normalcy. He was a blight on Alanna's perfection, her perfect life. A perfect child. How could things be reconciled?

"Come upstairs, you two," Alanna offered in barely a whisper. "We have a lot to discuss."

-

"He's beautiful, Alanna," Casiama said as she shut the door to Alanna's room upstairs. She motioned for Talos to hand over the child to her.

"Thank you, Cass. And not just for that, but for keeping true to your word," the enchantress said warmly. Talos, eventually and meticulously, handed his son over to the gleeful elf. She instantly cooed when she took possession. Free from the distraction of life, Talos had questions.

"Your sister said you knew we were coming?" he asked Alanna, quite the hint of confusion present on his words.

"You heard right. I can see all that you see, Talos. For example, I will now call you an idiot for teleporting to that massive boat on your own. And I will also thank Casiama again for locating you upon your return."

Casiama's ears perked up at the mention of her name. "Huh? Oh. You are welcome, Alanna," she replied, quickly falling out of conversation once again as she looked over the infant Talos in her arms.

"Not only that, I'm also aware on the same day that we said our farewells, she explained our arrangement to you. Regarding our... shared love for you."

He gulped. "And how would you know all of that?" he asked gruffly. She only smiled at first, taking a step closer to him.

"The arrangement. What do you say, Talos?" Alanna asked in a whisper. Talos furrowed his brow, then glanced away from the enchantress. He laid a hand on the pommel on his sword, sincerely contemplating between his options.

"I won't say anything," he answered sincerely. "Not until you explain what you've cursed me with, Alanna."

Alanna swayed towards him slowly, bringing a hand forward to dance her fingers up Talos' sword arm. She opened her lips to speak, but kept silent for a moment until she could contemplate the correct course of action. Alanna only had one chance at this, after all. She decided to speak out loud, to allow Casiama to hear what she had to say; but Alanna was deep within Talos' troubled mind as well.

"It isn't a curse. Remember those books from Mschuleft?" she asked after a minute. Talos didn't respond, but Alanna continued when she sensed the affirmative in the man's mind.

"Well, one held a lengthy text titled 'Compassio'. Compassion, empathy. Enchantment. It laid everything out to me again as if I was relearning my own birthright. And was it ever so harsh, Talos, to finally have confirmation of your greatest fears. The author declared that empathy itself was a curse, rather than a gift. I agreed with it, as you would expect..."

Alanna trailed off, reading Talos for but a moment. She felt a gentle confusion, and expanded on her thought.

"Remember on the steps of the college? When I explained that as a young girl, that the thoughts of those I passed troubled me greatly? Men thought of only one thing as I walked by, while women were apathetic... for... for the most part," she explained, running her other hand along Talos' chest.

"Mm," Talos mumbled. He was attempting to be unreadable, which was impossible. Alanna felt his sympathy.

"The curse is that an empath will always be drawn to one side of a coin or the other. Either she will be sympathetic for the sea of thoughts around her, and you know, actually care for the world, to try to make it better for those following in her footsteps... or... she will grow numb to it. And use her powers apathetically. Like..."

"Rayya. Yeah," Talos interjected gruffly.

"Yeah. And I really wish I had the book before, when I was first going to the College. I can only imagine what good it will do for new enchantresses. But... anyway," Alanna cleared her throat, then pushed herself into Talos' chest. She felt his heartbeat, then one of his hands rising to her back to hold her close. She sighed happily.

"Anyway, regardless of the path an enchantress wanders down, she will always be consumed by sadness and regret. It may take two decades, it may take ten. In the past, enchantresses fought this by exiling themselves from civilization. To live on their own, a-and to read no thoughts but her own. And, it works... but... that isn't me, you know? For all it's faults, I appreciate what the world has to offer."

Get on with it, Talos thought impatiently. Alanna nodded into his chest, only listening to his heartbeat for several courage-building moments. Her heartbeat.

"We're bound, Talos. I own you completely, just as much as you own me. The solution the author presented to combat the inevitable depression spiral was to... rewrite part of a merged mind with your own, then do the same to yourself with theirs. It allows us to share..."

She looked up at him with a smile. "Everything, Talos. My soul is yours to play with, as yours is mine. The bonding allows us to share the negatives of life, as well as the positives, and with that... I can be free. I can stride the world and feel its pain, without feeling its pain myself, because I'm you. It's... hard to explain. But I can only do it once. And I chose you, for no matter how much I despised your actions I would not allow myself to do anything else."

He should have pushed away from her with the admission. Wanted to, even. To do such a thing without his knowledge...

"I know, I know," Alanna continued. "It was wrong of me. But would you have ever said yes?"

"No," Talos replied immediately. "Absolutely not." He didn't release her from his grasp, either. "Can you reverse it?"

Alanna's eyes widened in shock. She could...

"At least... try it. Part of my mind is yours, Talos. It should be as easy to recall as your own memories."

Talos coughed. He didn't have one crumb of information on how to do it, but gave it a soldier's best. After a minute of silence he sighed, and looked down at Alanna once more. She was staring brightly into his eyes, with a wide smile on her face as she held him tightly.

"Imagine... I know it's crazy, but imagine you're me. You're a sorceress with twenty years of age who just had a beautiful child with a man she cares deeply for. And he came back to you, o-on his own accord even. You were so... worried for him that even your tired mind could not sleep for days, but now he's here, holding you in his arms..."

Alanna teared up, pressing her face against Talos' chest again. She shook her head as her hands gripped his arms feebly.

"And all you want to do is cry, knowing he's one step away from walking out that door forever."

But you hope with all your being that he won't.

"I'm... sorry, Alanna. I won't believe you," Talos said coldly. Alanna reply was muffled as her face remained embedded in his chest.

"Just try it, please..."

"I... did," he replied after a moment. "I feel nothing."

Alanna nodded enthusiastically, then pushed away from him. "Yes. That's it! Go through it, Talos. The void is only a curtain, and I am the other side."

Talos sighed, and felt irritated enough to yell. "Alanna, I don't see how-"

His words were interrupted by a gentle groan of pain, a grimace forming on his face as he fell to one knee. Casiama, who had been holding young Talos in the corner of the room silently, stepped forward nervously. Alanna raised a hand towards the elf.

"What's happening to him?" Casiama asked nervously, rocking the babe in her arms.

"He's... living my life," Alanna explained with a sigh. She turned towards the princess, who was now frowning, and eased her thoughts.

"I know... you're worried for him. You're worried that he'll grow too close to me, and there will be no room left for you. I promise that's impossible, Cass. He loves you deeply, far more than anyone should love another. I don't know why."

Casiama furrowed her brow, slightly insulted by the insinuation that she wasn't worth loving.

"I'm sorry, that's... not what I meant," Alanna quickly retracted. "It's inexplicable love. I delved into it while you traveled the north. While he fucked you almost every night. While you watched the Isbryggan lights together. While you lost friends together, and when you finally found him again. I am him, Casiama. And I delved deep."

"Alanna..." Casiama muttered. The enchantress took a step towards her.

"Yeah?" Alanna asked softly.

"You're really, really frightening," she whispered with a half-smile. Alanna shrugged with a smirk, nodding towards the babe in Casiama's arms. The elf handed him over ever so gently, to avoid waking him.

"So is Talos. So are you," Alanna whispered. Casiama nodded with a gentle giggle, and Alanna soon stepped out of the room to hand the babe to her sister so he could sleep properly. The trio would have much to discuss, and they would have to discuss it without interruption.

Alanna returned to her room several minutes later, finding Casiama seated on the bed with a hand on Talos' shoulder. The princess glanced towards her as she entered the room, but quickly looked away. Alanna took a seat next to her, tiredly plopping onto the bed.

"He'll be okay, Cass," she assured the worried elf. Casiama rolled her head with a frown, unconvinced.

"What's happening now?" she asked softly. Alanna shut her eyes, then smiled.

"We're... in the Badlands together. He has just slain the wyvern, and now we're on a boat to meet you. Oh, I hate this part. He falls for you immediately when you change your attire. Then I'm... jealous. Then sad."

Casiama placed a hand on Alanna's thigh, gripping her gently. "Alanna..." The enchantress sensed her remorse, and swiftly silenced it.

"Remember, I don't blame you. Talos was an idiot, yet he was also impossible to resist."

Casiama smiled, tilting her head in reminiscence. "Yeah... it was his eyes. But, Alanna-"

Alanna shoved her shoulder playfully. "But nothing. Although I'm more enthralled of his hair and eyebrows," she giggled, Casiama joining in as well. "Look, we're all here now. He was a jerk, I was a jerk, you were..." Alanna cleared her throat, pausing abruptly.

"We're still going to go through with your plan, right? For little Talos' sake?"

Casiama looked towards Talos, frowning again. She shrugged meekly. "Yes. I only hope he agrees with us, though. He's very upset."

"Yeah," Alanna agreed quietly. The girls sat on the bed for a minute without speaking out loud, though the enchantress was dancing through Casiama's memories. She always loved seeing glimpses of the elven city of Tor Valliya, and hoped to travel there herself one day.

"Hey, Cass?" she asked. Casiama gazed towards her, smiling when she met Alanna's. The enchantress bit her lip.

"You know... ever since binding with him, whenever I look at you I feel as if-"

"-this is fucking possible!" Talos shouted out of nowhere, finishing a train of thought from a quarter-hour ago. Both Casiama and Alanna shot up from the bed, crowding around the man as he rose to his feet. His breaths were shallow, as if he were gasping for air for a moment, but he quickly settled down when he gazed upon Casiama's sweet smile. When his sight fell upon Alanna, however...

"You had no right to push all of that onto me, Alanna," he declared.

"How can you say that? After seeing all that I've seen? After I delivered your child, surrounded by my friends but feeling completely alone! I made it through because you were still with me, even when you weren't."

Talos shook his head. "It's... still wrong, Alanna."

"I know, and I don't care. I love you with all my being, Talos," Alanna said tearfully. "And I only wish that you would say the same in return, without me having to read it. Just once..."

Talos sighed then stepped towards her, wrapping an arm around her back. Alanna laid her head on his chest.

"You know I do," Talos whispered. Alanna tilted her head on his chest to pierce his gaze with her own. She could feel his heartrate quickening, her heartrate quickening, and noticed him taking a quick glance towards Casiama. The elf subtly nodded her acceptance towards him with a smile.

"I love you, Alanna," Talos said hastily after clearing his throat. He thought back to their journey through the eastern Badlands, which had been almost a year ago now.

"I have for a while. Since that night in the badlands," he admitted truthfully. Alanna smiled, shutting her eyes and snuggling further into his chest. He wrapped his other arm around her back, pushing her towards him.

"I knew you did," the enchantress whispered happily. Casiama sniffled, bringing her free hand to her nose. Talos kissed Alanna on the forehead before raising his sight to the elven princess.

"I'm sorry! It's just... so... beautiful," she said tearfully. Talos raised an arm, an offering for her which was immediately accepted. She, too, leaned against him.

You're staying, then?

"Yeah..." Talos replied deeply. "Don't think I could turn it down." He paused for a minute, just appreciating the warmth of the two beauties in his arms. He would never deserve this.

"Besides, I couldn't let a girl raise my son alone, anyway. He'd grow soft," Talos smirked. He was slapped twice by two different women immediately after.

"You'll have to teach him to be lucky, Talos. 'Cause he's not going to be a coward," Alanna said happily. He nodded.

"He already is. He has the best damned mother in the world." Talos squeezed both Alanna's and Casiama's shoulders, then pushed away from them with a grin.

"Say, Alanna?"

"Yeah?"

"I... noticed that you have been reading me since we parted. Living my life," Talos said somewhat mischeviously. Alanna nodded with a smile.

"So do you, erm, feel the same way about..." he trailed off, nodding towards Casiama.

Alanna bit her lip, just imperceptibly nodding. Talos smirked, then walked between the girls to make his way towards the door. He paused with his hand on the doorknob, then glanced back towards the pair.

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