Shalott

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by Literary_Dreamer, Jun 12, 2014.

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  1. Sevrin Mortimer lay back on the ground and stared up at the night sky. It was a sea full of diamonds, more than anyone would ever know. He wished, not for the first time, that he weren’t alone. He had his horse, loyal beast that it was, but it didn’t make up for the emptiness gnawing at his heart. He missed her, his one true love. He barely dare think her name from the shame of having failed her so thoroughly.

    Right now, she would be just as alone as he was locked away in a magic tower that he every ounce of his power and skill to create. No time passed on the inside of the tower, protecting her from the illness that was determined to take her life. Sevrin had left, promising that he would find a cure and return to her so that they could live out the rest of their lives together, happy. That was many years ago.

    Since leaving his love, Sevrin had traveled far and wide. He had gone to every wizard in the country and then had ventured into new and dangerous lands. He was now far away from his love in her magic tower and no closer to finding a cure. More than that, he was old now. If he appeared on her doorstep this instant, his love would not recognize him and she would still be the youthful perfect beauty that she’d been when he left her. He couldn’t just appear on her doorstep, either. He no longer had the strength for such a massive spell. If he set out now, traveling the traditional way, he wasn’t sure that he would live long enough to see his love’s tower.

    Sevrin heaved sigh that the rest of the world seemed in agreement with and closed his eyes, ready to sleep after another fruitless day. No sooner had he closed his eyes than he heard the sound of people in the woods around the clearing where he’d made camp for the night. Bandits. He may have become the most powerful wizard in the world over the course of his journey, until his health had started failing him, but Sevrin was very short on luck.

    Deciding it was better to let them go about with their thieving business than to fight back, Sevrin rolled over and pretended to be asleep. He heard them enter his camp and begin rifling through his things. They were quite quiet for bandits, or maybe he was just hard of hearing. They soon grew louder, though, tearing through his things with more and more frustration until one of them finally went to Sevrin and picked him up by his shirt.

    “Where is it, old man?” he asked.

    “Where is what?” Sevrin asked back, dazed without needing to pretend.

    “Your money, your valuables,” the bandit replied, shaking Sevrin as he spoke.

    “But I don’t have anything,” the poor wizard said.

    “Useless fool.” The bandit dropped him and reached for his weapon.

    Though Sevrin could have fought him off with a flick of his wrist and a word or two, he decided not to. What was the point in living if he wouldn’t ever see his love again? He decided to make his last thoughts of her, beautiful and happy, safe in her tower…in her tower where she would wait forever for a cure that would never come as the spell slowly weakened from age and finally broke, allowing time to finally move again and with it her illness which would slowly eat away at her until she died, frightened and alone, wondering, “Why didn’t my Sevrin come to save me?”

    That was unacceptable. This body may have been finished but Sevrin wasn’t. He couldn’t allow her to die simply because he wasn’t strong enough, because he didn’t live long enough. There was a way to save her, he knew it, and the only way to find it was to look hard enough.

    Sevrin had nearly forgotten the bandit but, when the bandit’s blade entered his stomach, he let out a strangled cry. This body was well and truly finished now. He didn’t have much time left. Rather than waste his efforts on trying to save an old and half-crippled body, Sevrin chose an older and more powerful spell. The last words on his lips were the incantation to a half-finished spell of rebirth.

    *****

    Nathaniel Mortimer was born with a purpose. He didn’t know what it was but he spent his entire life searching. Each night he dreamed of a beautiful princess locked in a tower. He was obsessed with that tower, even though he never found it. Some days, he thought it was a real, physical tower, others he was convinced it was simply a construction of his mind and the princess was the reward for seeing his research succeed.

    Nathaniel’s research was alchemy. He was certain it would work. He came close once or twice but he couldn’t quite reach his goal. Still he tried and tried again. He worked himself to the bone until he was infected with the Black Death and died three days later with the name of a woman he’d never met on his lips.

    *****

    Jonathan Mortimer was a genius. It was if he’d had a thousand years of knowledge crammed into his brain at birth and he was only getting smarter. It was a hard decision on the part of his parents but he skipped a large number of years in school and by the time he was twenty-five he was the youngest practicing doctor at his hospital.

    Despite his brilliance, Jonathan didn’t have dreams. He became a doctor because he was good at it and he thought it would make his parents happy. He chose to specialize in infectious disease because his favorite professor had specialized in infectious disease. He wandered through a life that, to him, was as bland as oatmeal, even as he achieved things others would kill to have. There was no magic in his life.

    Jonathan had never believed in magic, not even as a young child. Part of it was his incredibly fast intelligence which could figure out a magic trick even before it was finished and part of it was a nebulous feeling that magic had failed him, somehow, somewhere. Whatever it was, it made him unpopular at birthday parties where magicians were involved, not that he was invited to many.

    Jonathan spent most of his life alone. Generally, people were either too intimidated by his intelligence to want to get close to him or they were too painfully stupid for Jonathan to want to get close to them. He didn’t mind being alone, though. He felt more lonely in a crowd full of people than he did in the middle of nowhere with no one around for miles. His favorite pastime was going for hikes in the woods. He would camp out every chance he had to take time off. He would gaze at the stars and pretend that he was the only person on the face of the planet.

    That was what Jonathan was doing now, hiking. He’d just moved to a new hospital in a quaint little town that sat on the edge of beautifully dark and deep woods. The townspeople said they were haunted but Jonathan didn’t believe in haunted. It was his first weekend since moving in and he was taking a break from unpacking by backpacking in the woods.
     
  2. “Sevrin.” Even speaking his name strengthened her magic. She only had a little, but it was enough to keep her occupied. Leala held a bit of plain cotton, from it her fingers drew a fine strand spun together and stretched out into a colored thread. It had begun as yellow and deepened into orange, but was shifting further to red. Leala didn’t need red for this embroidery. Perhaps brown, or a deep mahogany, she tried to concentrate and the color darkened, but the magic followed her heart too closely. When the tread between her fingers remained as bright as blood she deserted the task. The red was cut and cast aside.

    Was Sevrin as heartsick as she?

    Leala turned to the gilded mirror he had left hung upon the wall which gave her glimpses into the world. But it must have been a very long time since she had seen his face. Sevrin was out there somewhere, amid the rush of time. This one afternoon she lived in was preposterous. It seemed to stretch beyond imagining, but it had a beginning, and it would have an end. She had learned not to keep any reference of time, not tallying how many embroidered scenes she had created, nor how many times she saw moonlight in the mirror. People passed by, their clothing was decidedly different than it was, but always they were the same. The children played whether starving or well fed. The adults worried and worked and smiled or frowned as they went about their business.

    She embroidered scenes she saw in the world. Practice had given mastery to her talents. The pictures were perfect, intricate and beautiful. They displayed joy in the light and dangers lurking in the shadows and always some glimpse of hope on the horizon that could defeat any trouble to beset the world.

    When the canvas was full of hand worked scenes, she would stand against the far wall in order to appreciate the full beauty before casting a spell to revert its form. Then she would begin again with canvas unpierced, unspun white cotton, and choose a new design to create.

    Sometimes she did not care for the problems of the world, only hers. Leala would fall into a languid despair until she thought of Sevrin appearing at any moment. What a pity it would be if the man who came to give her renewed life found her drowning in doubt. With that thought she would wipe her tears and pace around the room. She smiled as if her heart were full of jubilant expectation until it had drawn a full measure of hope and she truly was as close to happy as she could be without him. Then she would go to the mirror again and look at the world or return to her embroidery, prepared to wait for him even longer.

    But not this time. This very last time, she gazed into the mirror and saw him. Was she deceiving herself? Was it another ill trick of the mind? No! That was Sevrin’s height, the breath of shoulders. Sevrin’s gait as he walked an unmarked path through the woods. That was Sevrin’s face, his profile turning to glance at a movement in the brush. He carried bag strapped to his back. Her cure was found! At last she could go with him! Sevrin would heal her heart and body.

    Now, finally, at the end, she would indulge impatience! He had not appeared out of thin air at her tower door. He was walking, just entering the valley that branched off to meet with hers. She would go to him.

    Leala rushed to the door, but the latch was caught tight. His ancient time spell locked her in.

    “No! Sevrin!” She cried out “Open! Open!” and pulled with all of her might. Leala tired every bit of household magic, every enchantment she could recall. She used a spell for opening seals, revert to previous form, and even a spell of attack against rodents.

    After she knew not how long, the latch gave way. The spell broke. Leala stepped out into time. The forest was dense and looked very different now, at the end, than it had at the beginning. But she was not afraid. They had walked these hills many times, though they seemed larger now, harsher, and without the slightest path lead the way. She followed the valley downwards maneuvering around rocks, over obstinate tree roots and under low hanging limbs.

    The journey was not short. The shadows shifted as the sun moved through the sky. But she pressed on. The travel was a strain in its own right, but the fatigue she had carried unnoticed in the tower was suddenly given freedom to grow. Sevrin had told her not to exert herself this hard, but she was going to see him. This once, it wouldn’t kill her, Sevrin was going to save her.

    The headache so long stagnant, a steady dull bearable pain, began to throb. The movement made her side ache, she gasped for breath. Wheezing turned to coughing. Coughing uncontrollably was unacceptable. Leala stopped to rest just long enough to clear her throat and regain her breath to push forward without gagging. Her stomach was upset enough as it was.

    She ignored it all. What did it matter? Sevrin was in this valley. She continued down the mountain, he had made much swifter progress and she nearly missed him. Leala caught sight of him ahead and to the left. She scrambled over the rocks, down a small ledge and forced her way through the low hanging boughs.

    Her heart was so light Leala felt she could have flown. Her head was so light it hardly felt like she was moving. Her eyes focused on him, never turning away. Her peripheral vision blurred and darkened. Her arms extended towards him. Darkness swept over and embraced her. The young woman fell unconscious at his feet.
     
  3. Jonathan paused a moment to brush back his sweat-soaked hair. It was no easy task, navigating these untouched woods, but it was more enjoyable than any hike he had taken for the past five years at least. He scanned around with his cool blue eyes, looking for the best path forward through the thick underbrush, and then he started forward again. He wasn’t particularly worried about getting lost, not only was he good at finding his way but he’d also brought a GPS with just in case.

    Jonathan always packed for emergencies. Part of it was probably because he was a doctor and he knew how fragile the human body was and part of it was his cautious nature. Either way, if he was going to be caught in the woods with an emergency, he wasn’t going to be doing so unprepared.

    As the day wore on and Jonathan picked his way further into the woods, he got the impression that he was heading downhill. It was an impression that made his heart sink. He always preferred to start out going uphill and go back down on his way home. He wasn’t about to stop and turn around, though. The day was still young and he hadn’t had his fill of hiking yet.

    A few moments after he’d determined not to stop, the woods fell eerily silent. It was like being on the edge of a storm but more abrupt and more total. Not even the trees moved. Cold dread gripped him. The rational part of his mind told him to turn back now before he got himself in trouble, go back to his apartment and watch documentaries until Monday morning when he was back on duty.

    There was another part of his mind that spoke to him as well. Unnameable and old, it felt like it was not a part of him and yet it undeniably was. It spoke with force that would not be denied. Do not turn back, it said, you must not turn back. If you turn back now, it will all be over and you may as well lie down and die. Jonathan didn’t understand why but he couldn’t put the voice of reason ahead of this voice. He started forward again even before he’d made the conscious decision not to turn back.

    A few steps later and the woods were alive again. All of the normal noises that accompanied such wild land resumed. It was like everything had been gripped for a moment in a spell that stopped time. Jonathan laughed at himself for such a thought. Spells, ha! How stupid.

    After having continued on for long enough that he’d half convinced himself that the episode of silence was just part of his imagination, Jonathan was almost lulled back into a sense of security. Then something started making a fuss in the woods. He could hear it long before he saw it and he froze, wondering what sort of animal would make such noise and if it was dangerous. Before he had time to wish he had something more dangerous than a water bottle with him, a young woman pushed her way through the underbrush, heading towards him. She looked very unwell, like she wouldn’t keep on her feet for much longer, so Jonathan started towards her to catch her before she fell, but she collapsed before he could do anything for her.

    Jonathan went to his knees beside the woman, immediately switching into doctor mode. He ran through the entire list of things to check when someone loses consciousness suddenly and determined that, as far as he could tell without any of the proper equipment, she was fairly stable. He took off his backpack and pulled out a blanket which he draped over her. He put the rest of the pack under her head a makeshift pillow.

    Once she was taken care of, Jonathan scouted ahead a little to find a place where they could hunker down and wait for rescue because they were too far into the woods for Jonathan to attempt carrying her out on his own. He quickly found the stream that ran along the bottom of the valley where the underbrush was a little thinner. He found his way back to the woman and then carefully carried her and his things to that spot by the river. He checked the woman over again but nothing had changed and there was nothing he could do, so he took his satellite phone out of his backpack and called in an emergency.

    Jonathan kept a very close eye on the woman and her condition so that he could report to the medics when they arrived, which he did. Then, on impulse, he decided to ride with them to the hospital. He didn’t know what made him do that. The woman was in good hands. She didn’t need him any longer. Still, he couldn’t leave her alone.

    Even once they arrived at the hospital, he couldn’t leave her alone. He waited patiently as all of the usual tests were run and then joined her in her room once she’d been assigned one. He took a seat in the chair on the far side of the room so that he, a stranger, wouldn’t be uncomfortably close when she woke.
     
  4. Strange to forget what it is like to be asleep. The uncomfortable confusion that grows between passivity and awareness until the conscious decision to stay asleep confirms to the brain that it is in fact awake. Leala began to stir but her mind was having difficulty connecting the stream of thoughts and events that had occurred since the last time she woke up, an immeasurably long time ago, this morning.

    There was a buzz like that of insects, but a constant quiet hum rather than the adjusting of flight and landing as usual . And somewhere in the distance a shrill ‘meep meep’ sounded over and over, like a small animal shrieking. It did not help her remember, but this was certainly not in her tower. Sevrin! He had come! Now she remembered with sudden clarity. But the bed she lay upon was too comfortable to be in the woods. He had brought her somewhere else.

    Her eyes had been reluctant to open before, but now they were struggling. The irritation had again produced a sticky fluid which held her eyelids together and crusted at the corners. Bringing both hands to her face, nimble fingers helped the lower lid pull away from the upper and wiped the gunk away from the crannies. Leala’s warm brown eyes were surrounded by a faint pink. But her face brightened when she saw him.

    He looked wonderful, albeit out of place. The chair he sat upon was simple, upholstered without elegance. The walls were exceptionally white and smooth, the light unnaturally bright. His clothing appeared strange, like those she saw pass in the mirror, and only seemed to belong with him because it had been worn in the woods and gotten dirty. She was certain a great deal of time had passed. Yet he was thrillingly young.

    He must have found a way to restore youth she concluded. It had been nothing more than a fictitious idea. One he had been convinced was lost beyond recovery if it had ever occurred. Should it have existed, his understanding of the world dictated that it could not save her from a debilitating disease even if he obtained it. But what a pleasure to see him handsome and young as if time hadn’t carried him too far along. It must have taken him a great deal of magic, but it was well worth the chance to live through life together.

    Leala stretched her hands out towards him. “Sevrin.” Her voice still tired and hushed so that it was scarcely audible. “Are you well? Was it terribly long?” He was sitting all the way across the room, and there was not a book in sight, but he was here. She pulled an arm back, pushing against the bed with her elbow to sit up and talk to him properly. There were a thousand questions she wanted to ask.
     
  5. Jonathan was nearly asleep, exhausted from unexpectedly exciting day in the woods and lulled by the consistent beep of the heart monitor. Sleep was so close that all he had to do was let himself fall. Then the rhythm of the heart rate monitor changed, not much but enough to throw Jonathan off and ruining his chance at a nap.

    After bringing himself back to full consciousness, Jonathan scrutinized the machines that were hooked up to the woman an read them as registering the vital signs of someone coming out of a near coma. He was suddenly very glad that he hadn’t actually fallen asleep. He knew that he should probably alert a nurse and the woman’s attending but he was reluctant to do so. Waking up to find a whole gaggle of strangers crowding one’s bed did not seem like a pleasant situation so Jonathan remained where he was, the sole onlooker.

    As the woman woke and began moving around, Jonathan pasted on his bedside persona. His normal personality, complete with its inadvertent coldness and his impatience with most people of normal intelligence level was not a favourite with patients so he’d perfected mask to wear when a good bedside manner was required. He was wearing it now because, for some reason, he wanted this woman to like him.

    When the woman sat up and looked at him, face brightening, he smiled back at her. He knew that he should tell her to lie back down and rest more because she was unwell but he said nothing. When she reached out her arms towards him, Jonathan nearly went to her but, not entirely sure it was appropriate, he remained where he was.

    When the woman started speaking, he voice was weak and hard to hear but Jonathan was used to listening to people who couldn’t put much volume into their voices and so, with effort, he was able to understand some of what she said, including the name Sevrin, which resonated with him like his own name. He immediately ran the name through his internal database of names, which included the entire local phonebook which he’d been forced to read out of boredom when his phone had died during his overnight trip for his interview at the hospital. He came up with nothing.

    He thought briefly to the police who were going through missing persons reports in hopes of finding out who this woman was but he didn’t trust the blockheaded sheriff so he killed the idea of giving the name over to the police. Instead, he focused on the fact that the woman appeared to be addressing him with that name.

    Pressing his lips together to avoid saying anything that would upset the woman, he went to her bedside and pressed the button on her hospital bed. Very shortly thereafter, a young blond man came into the room at a hurried but not panicked clip.

    Tyler Bell had become known as the best and hardest working nurse on the floor in the five years that he’d worked at the hospital but tonight he’d been slacking off in regards to one particular room because he’d been given very detailed instructions by his fiancée to relay very specific words to her older brother but he didn’t really want to because nothing good ever happened when both Moritmer siblings were involved. When the call nurse signal came from that room, however, he couldn’t ignore it.

    Tyler looked at Jonathan with trepidation for a moment before he noticed that the unconscious patient was no longer unconscious and was now sitting up in her bed. His expression immediately changed into a warm and friendly smile. Tyler loved people. It was why he’d chosen to go into nursing when he’d more than qualified for med school, a fact that still puzzled his genius brother-in-law-to-be.

    “Well, look who’s up,” he said. “Our own Sleeping Beauty.”

    “She woke up about a minute ago,” Jonathan reported. “You should contact her attending.”

    “Mmhm,” Tyler replied, ignoring the fact that Jonathan was telling him how to do his job. He found Jonathan much easier to get along with when he ignored half of what came out the man’s mouth. As he ignored Jonathan, he took the thermometer out of the nurse’s trolley he’d brought with him, put the sterile cover on it, and approached the bed.

    “I believe she is hallucinating,” Jonathan continued.

    “Is that so?” Tyler held up the wand of the thermometer and told the woman to, “Open your mouth,” before attempting to take her temperature. “What makes you think that?”

    “She called me Sevrin.”

    Sevrin. The name rang a bell to Tyler, who had heard the name repeatedly as “Sevrin the Great” was one of the figures Christina Mortimer was focusing on in her doctoral thesis on “Wise Men and Wizards: The Magic of the Medieval Period”.

    “That reminds me,” he said, “Chris wanted me to tell you that ‘you’d better go home, take a shower, and get at least eight hours of sleep’ or she’ll make you do it. I wouldn’t test her on that.”

    Tyler then went on with taking the woman’s vital signs and writing them down on her chart. Once he’d gotten them, he went to find the woman’s attending doctor. Jonathan settled down in a chair, this time the one closer to the head of the woman’s bed, silently promising to go home after he’d seen her attending doctor and had a clear overview of her situation.
     
  6. Leala wondered at his decided silence. His response was to act, coming near the bed and touching a small bulge on the frame. Sevrin stood expectantly. The familiarity she waited for did not appear.

    Over the threshold came another man. He walked with purpose, but seemed less than comfortable with the wizard. Rightly so, Leala thought smugly.

    Once a strutting squire had come to them demanding a portion for his masters horse 'at once!' He had looked incredulously at the parchments and vials used in the process, and too curiously at the pot bubbling on the fire. By the time Sevrin was done, the squire was anxious to keep out of his way. He applied all the manners he had ever learned while leaving what appeared to be a severe, powerful, and very busy wizard. How she had wanted to laugh at his sudden 'self preserving' humility. As if Sevrin would do him any harm, he never used dark magic.

    There was nothing pretentious about this man. He was charming and bright. Sevrin treated him as someone involved in the current situation, informing him of her present condition, and what needed to happen next.

    Naturally she did as asked, opening her mouth for the tool he slipped under her tongue. Were it not for the awkward and impeding 'twig' she would have spoken up, even without being addressed. 'Of course she called him Sevrin, most people did.' Leala especially enjoyed the privilege of using first names without formality.

    The accusation of hallucination was a surprise to her. She had imagined a beaver running through the kitchen, and a herron standing at the foot of her bed. But that was several days before going into the tower. Those had been startling and incomplete, tricks of the mind Sevrin had insisted. This was very different, he was so clear. The blue of his eyes, and the way his hair sat above his ear were exactly right. The two men were having a conversation, she was not imagining him. She mused while doing all that was prompted. Sevrin keeping careful watch over the strange process that seemed to go exactly as he expected.

    When they were left alone, Leala turned towards him again. Her voice was stronger now, but he was not sitting as far away, her tone was still hushed. "Will you tell me what is going on now? Also, where are we?"
     
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