The Midnight Maiden Ch. 02byLordBrionGrenwall©
The Ahlissan Chronicles
~ Book 1 ~
The Midnight Maiden
Chapter 2: In the Garden
When Lord Brion rose the next morning he dressed and went into the common room that he shared with his father. Lord Barnard was seated at the table reading a parchment and eating his breakfast; he looked up as Brion approached.
"Ah! Good morning my son, how did you sleep?"
"Good morning father, not well I'm afraid. Last night found me restless. Also I had a rather unique experience."
Barnard watched as his son piled bacon and eggs onto his plate.
"Really?" he asked, his curiosity aroused. "And what pray tells was this experience?"
As Lord Brion ate he related his tale starting with his first glimpse of the maiden at the knighting ceremony and concluding with his vision of her the prior night in the glade, Lord Barnard listened intently.
"So you see father, I have no idea who she is and I'm of half a mind to tell myself that she doesn't even exist except within my dreams."
Lord Barnard laughed; it was deep and boisterous much like his son's.
"Well, it is a magical tale at any rate but I think you should be cautious with this mysterious maiden." He said as he looked across the table to his son.
"Why is that?" Brion asked looking up from his plate.
"Why indeed? A beautiful girl catching your eye, the same mysterious maiden singing and dancing in a glade, I think you, my son, are in danger of the one weapon against which there is no defense."
"And what weapon is that?" Brion asked raising one eyebrow. Again Lord Barnard chuckled.
"Love my son, love."
Love his father had said. Brion contemplated that word as he accompanied his father to his various meetings that day. He had never truly loved a woman; he was a man to whom battle and the quest had always called. During his youth he had trained constantly in the art of war and had never had time for the frivolity of youth. That is not to say that Brion had no knowledge of women but he was a soldier and with that came a certain time and place for a woman but only insofar as the need had been satisfied. He had never developed anything close to what he thought love should feel like. They way her glance had affected him was still there only now it felt different, hollow. In much the same way as an arrow is pulled from the flesh, where it had been feels empty. Only this was not pain, it was as if his heart had suddenly filled with something that had never been there before and away from her his heart emptied and yearned to be filled once again.
During the early afternoon as Brion sat and listened to a representative from the Archclericy of Veluna describe orc raids in their lands near the Yatil Mountains, he realized that along with the flood of emotion that he felt, this fair maiden triggered strange memories as well. In his mind's eye Brion could see windy snow swept mountains, the luminous figure of the Archpaladin and a promise that he would remember more when the time was right.
Of course he remembered his travels in the Crystalmist Mountains; it was there that he had met the legendary smith Bain Grimtooth. Hungry and cold, it had been sheer luck that he had stumbled upon the cave the dwarf called home. Over a few months the dwarf, with Brion's assistance, had crafted for the young errant an amazing suit of armor. Forged of ebonsteel, the armor weighed almost nothing and enhanced his speed and strength. Brion's sword also forged of ebonsteel never dulled and was virtually unbreakable. These things he recalled clearly but of the peak, the Archpaladin and the promise he could recall nothing more than hazy visions.
It was then Brion vowed he would search out this fair maiden. He would find out who she was and if possible discover how and why she affected him so intensely.
* * *
Brion retired early that evening but awoke around darkwatch. As he looked out the window of his room he saw that Luna was again high in the dome of the sky. Quickly he dressed and headed downstairs just as he had the night before. As Brion stepped outside he once again heard the dulcet tones of her voice. Just as he had the night before he carefully picked his way through the garden taking extra care to be as quiet as possible and when he neared the glade Brion again knelt in the shadows. As he looked upon her she was just as beautiful as he remembered, she wore a light pink gossamer gown and again her feet were bare. Instead of flowers in her hair she now wore a string of pearls. He took in her coppery curls which flowed down her back and those eyes like emeralds twinkling in the moonlight.
That night he watched as she again sang the strange elven song and danced about the secluded glade. How long Brion sat there crouched in the shadows he did not know, while he was here with her time had no meaning for him. Soon though her dance began to slow and her song began to fade, at first he thought he would leave again but he changed his mind. What if he returned tomorrow night and she was gone? No he couldn't risk that, he had to talk with her. He watched as she slowly stopped and sat down on the edge of the vine covered dome shaped rock. Brion slowly stood trying to decide how to approach her; he suddenly noticed his own hesitation. He had charged lines of pikemen astride Armageddon sliced his way through gnolls and orcs and faced down all manner of monstrous beasts and yet he was unable to approach this woman who had so captivated him.
She was looking down at her feet in the grass when he finally decided to step out and yet without looking up she spoke to him as if she had known he was there all along.
"Greetings Lord Brion, why do you persist in hiding in the shadows? I know you are there."
Her speaking voice was soft and melodic and it was as music to his ears, stammering he spoke.
"Forgive me my lady, I did not mean to interrupt you. I merely wanted to hear you sing. How is it that you know my name when I do not know yours?"
She laughed softly as she turned her head to look directly at him her jade eyes flashing.
"Do you not remember? I saw you knighted only yesterday. You do not remember seeing me?"
She punctuated her last question with a pouty laugh impishly implying that she was hurt he had forgotten their first glance of each other. Brion stepped out from the shadows and walked toward her.
"No not at all my lady! My apologies, it slipped my mind." Laughing nervously, as he closed the distance between them Brion could better see her delicate features in the moonlight. She was a stunning woman of maybe twenty and being this close to her made it difficult for him to think clearly. He noticed that the growth on the stone was a thatch of honeysuckle; the heady and exotic scent filled his nostrils.
"I am still at a loss though my lady, you know my name but I still do not know yours. Are you with one of the visiting dignitaries here or are you an apparition, a phantom of loveliness?"
She smiled at the compliment and thought of teasing him again but decided not to.
"I am Lady Eryca Dawn Tandris of Walworth, my grandfather is his Honorable Grace William Moffitt the Earl of Walworth, Knight Commander of the Shield Lands and this is his citadel." Her answer was smooth and even not filled with the presumptuous derision so often given by nobles and their titles.
Brion quickly bowed his head.
"I beg your pardon my Lady, I meant no disrespect. Please forgive my remarks."
Eryca smiled and dipped her head to look into his eyes.
"There is nothing to forgive Lord Brion, I enjoyed them, and you flatter me with your words."
"It's not empty flattery to me my Lady, I find you breathtaking and you affect me in ways that I do not understand."
As he gazed at her he noticed that the gown she wore was sheerer than he had noticed before. When she moved it seemed to float with her as if she were clothed in a cloud of mist, he averted his eyes. Eryca noticed the change in his eyes and it pleased her, he was obviously a true gentleman of noble stature and bearing. Not like so many of the other noblemen who talked of nobility but showed their true colors in private settings.
"And how is it that I affect you my Lord?" she asked.
"Can you not see my Lady? In your presence I find it difficult to collect my thoughts, my heart is pounding as if from a prolonged battle and my skin feels hot as if my blood were boiling even as it flows through my veins. You have bewitched me my Lady to the very core of my being."
Lady Eryca smiled to herself she of course knew the answer because she had felt the exact same thing herself. She was in fact a sorceress, a mage of no small renown and she knew well the nature of the connection that they shared even if Lord Brion had not yet realized it. And though she was enjoying their conversation she wanted to tantalize him some more.
"Thank you Lord Brion again you flatter me but alas it is getting late and morning is swiftly approaching. I am sure that you need your rest for the important business that tomorrow brings" again she smiled impishly "and it would never do for a maiden such as me to be seen alone in the garden with a strange gentleman."
"As you wish my Lady, may I see you again, tomorrow night perhaps?"
"I would like that my Lord, here tomorrow night then at the apex of Luna?" With that she held out her hand. Lord Brion took her delicate hand in his and kissed it.
"Till tomorrow night my Lady" as he turned to leave the garden Lord Brion smiled pleased with himself. He had accomplished two things, he knew that she was real and he had learned her name, Eryca.