Cloud & Shade - Chapter 1: Strange Occurances
Chapter 1: Strange Occurances
"Go find Adar, gremlin. Tell him it's almost dinner time." Mornië swatted Aingeal on the bottom as the child dashed back out the door. "And try to stay clean!" Aingeal just rolled her eyes at her mother before going in search of her father.
Thalion, Athrun's half-grown excuse for a sight hound, licked Mornië's hand in a silent plea to be allowed to follow. She scratched the silver haired animal behind the ears before nodding. "Get out of here." Thalion ran off after Aingeal barking happily.
The path was heavily wooded on both sides, and bright patches of sunlight shone through the green canopy above. Aingeal had mysteriously 'lost' her shoes earlier in the day, and she ran barefoot down the trail leading to the city, her feet padding silently on the warm earth. Thalion ran ahead of her, his ears flopping wildly as he loped down the path barking.
Aingeal cut off the path and made a beeline through the trees and bushes. "Adar!" she shouted, jumping off of a short embankment back onto the path, and into his arms.
Athrun caught his daughter in a hug. Thalion charged down the embankment seconds behind her. "You two are a little far from home." He poked Aingeal in the ribs as Huisuume continued down the path as if nothing had happened. Aingeal squirmed and giggled when Athrun poked her again. "You know, these sneak attacks of yours have consequences."
Aingeal began squirming in earnst when her father said this. "What's this?!" he asked in mock surprise. "You're laughing already?" Aingeal could barely contain her giggles. He shrugged and began tickling her anyway.
"Stop!" Aingeal squealed as her tickled her, kicking and squirming, to the point where she was in danger of falling off the horse.
"Are you asking for mercy?" Athrun paused for a brief second to pull her upright.
"Yes!" Aingeal practically shrieked.
Athrun stopped tickling her and set her infront of him, letting her hold Huisuume's reins loosly. Aigeal hiccuped and giggled again. "So did your mother send you to find me again, Loté? ['flower']" He tugged on her hair playfully, using her nickname.
Aingeal nodded. "Said it was almost dinner time." She hiccuped again, then sneezed.
Athrun chuckled. "Ariel told me to bring you with me tomorrow."
"Ammé too?" Aingeal dropped Huisuume's reins and turned to look Athrun.
He nodded. "I can't figure out why but she seems quite taken with you."
"It's 'cuz I'm cute!" Aingeal proclaimed shamelessly.
"Oh, what makes you think that?" Athrun tickled her again.
"Because you said so!" she giggled in her defense. Her savior came as her mother came to the doorway.
"Dinner you two. Get in here and wash up; you're both filthy." She shook her head. Like Father like daughter. They were two peas in a pod.
Athrun winked at Aingeal as he lowered her from Hiusumme's back. "Filthy?" He looked down at himself as he sidled up to his wife. "What makes you say that?"
Mornië backed away from him and the mischevious glint in his eyes. "Don't come anywhere near me." She knew that look very well. Athrun managed to snag her wrist as she retreated. Pulling her closer, her wrapped an arm around her waist. "I'm hurt." Mornië snorted as she tried to break free. He placed a playful peck on her cheek and grinned.
Aingeal stared at them with a wrinkled nose. "Eew, kissing..."
Athrun laughed and scooped her up. "Come on Loté, lets go get cleaned up before Ammé kicks us out of the house."
A shadowy figure slid between the tree shadows that surrounded the small house. The sounds of laughter and good-natured bantering coming from within greated on already raw nerves. Slowly circling, the spectre made a mental map of the surroundings. The time would come. The time for revenge and vindication. The figure moved in closer to the dwelling place, spotting the father and daughter. "So, he has a daughter...How convenient."
"Can I go play?" Aingeal pleaded with her parents when she had finished. Mornië nodded as she began to wash up the few dishes they had used. "Whoo!" the young girl grabbed Thalin by the scruff of the neck and pulled him along with her.
The spectre watched the little girl bound out of the house full of laughter and energy. Watched her half-westle half-romp with the large silver dog. The animal would present a small problem to plans, but he wasn't anything that couldn't be dealt with. Circling around the pair carefuly, the figure kept their distance, while following them closely as they moved furthur and furthur from the house. Soon, they would be out of sight, and the cloaked stranger could make their move. The painstakingly silent and careful footsteps following went unnoticed by either the girl or the dog. They continued their romping undisturbed as they made their way toward a small, muddy creek that ran nearby.
Knowing they couldn't be seen from the house, the phantom stepped from the tree shadow. Aingael didn't at first notice him, but Thalion bristled and bared his fangs.
Clutching a rag in it's deathly, white hand, the cloaked figure advanced slowly. Aingeal turned to look up when a shadow fell over her from behind. Her eyes widened slightly. Taking a tiny step back, Aingeal stared up at the stranger with wide eyes and screamed. Thalion growled, stopping the figure for a moment.
Moving quickly, the figure grabbed the elfling in its thin, twisted, yet surprisingly strong hands. One hand stuffed the rag into her mouth as he began moving back unto the forest away from her home. Thalion growled a sharper warning, but he was again ignored. The dog howled his outrage, lunging at the fiend who was stealing his mistress away.
The dog latched onto a cloth shrouded leg, his sharp incisors tearing through the material. The figure cursed in anger and struck the animal sharply. Thalion fell back with a yelp.
Quieting the struggling girl as best as possible, the spectre listened for a moment. The sounds of frantic movement the the east told the figure that the dog's yelps and the girl's scream had been heard. Cursing again, the stranger yanked one bony hand free and pulled a vial from the folds dark material. Pulling the stopper from the bottle with sharp, white teeth, it tilted the elfing's head back roughly, and emptied the entire contents into her open eyes. Only the rag in her mouth kept the blood-curdling scream she emitted when the liquid entered her eyes from being heard across the entirety of Middle-earth.
Shoving her away roughly, the figure vanished into the shadows in a swirl of dark material and a whispering of a breeze.
"Aingeal!" Athrun crashed through the underbrush headlessly, closly followed by Mornië. Mornië had only just managed to grab Athrun's bow before she dashed out the door, cursing her skirts as ran. Thalion's barking and howls followed by a stifled scream had seized both their hearts in an icy grip of fear.
They found Thalion first. The dog was limping, but still growling and furious about something. Athun spied a bit of blue material out of the corner of his eye. "Aingeal!" He dashed towards it, his feet driven by dread. " Loté!" He swept her into his arms gently, fearful of any injury she might have. The elfling was rubbing her eyes fiercly, whimpering and sniffling.
Mornië ran a hand down the back of her daughter's head as much for her own comfort as for Aingeal's. "Let me see, little one," she murmered, pulling the girl's hands away from her eyes. Aingeal's clear blue eyes were red and bloodshot, and an oily substance covered the area around her eyes and cheeks.
Athrun wiped some of it away with the edge of his tunic and picked her up, cradling her against his chest. "Lets go get you cleaned up," he said comfortingly, casting a worried glance at Mornië, who's eyes mirrored his concern.
*******THE NEXT DAY********
"Ariel!!" Aingeal flung herself into the she-elf's arms. Ariel squeezed the elfing, laughing. "How are you, little one? Goodness you've grown."
Aingeal looked up at the woman who had been like a grandmother to her. Her vision went fuzzy for a few seconds, and she blinked quickly to clear it. She hadn't told anyone, not ever her parents, that she was having trouble seeing at times. "I hope so. I want to be as tall as Ada!"
"And I'm sure you will be!" Ariel tickled the elfling. "So, what do you say we finish that embroidery we've been working on?" Ariel grinned. She hoped to make up for the fact that Mornië never learned to embroider by teaching her daughter.
Aingeal hesitated for a second. It didn't go unnoted by Ariel, who said nothing about it. "Okay." The worry in Aingeal's voice made Ariel wonder. She didn't know what would make the girl hesitate about continuing to learn skills with needle and thread. Ariel fetched the embroidery and the two made themselves comfortable among the plentiful cushions of the long couch.
Aingeal glanced nervously at Ariel and then looked back at her embroidery, squinting slightly. The pattern, a simple, floral sampler, blurred slightly. She pulled it closer to her face, placing her needle through the cloth at the next marking. "Ow!" Aingeal sucked on the finger she had just poked.
"Careful," Ariel admonished, watching the girl carefullly, "You'll get blood on the pattern."
Aingeal rolled her eyes. "I'm more worried about my finger."
Ariel grinned at the girl. "That's something your mother would say." the she-elf ruffled her pupils hair.
"How could you have missed that?" Ariel stood on the sidelines as Aingeal tried to show her how much better she had become with the bow.
Aingeal said nothing as she notched another arrow and moved up a few paces. Cursing her blurry eyes silently, she took aim. Praying mentally that this shot would be closer to the target than the last, she released the arrow, waiting for the solid "thud" that should follow. The arrow whistled past the target and into the brush beyond.
"I've never seen you miss like this child; are you alright?"
"It's nothing," Aingeal insisted, "I guess I'm tired. Maybe we should go find Adar," Aingeal's shoulders slumped slightly. She couldn't think for the life of her what was wrong. Turning toward the rack of bows to her right, the world around her dimmed slightly as if there were a very heavy, grey mist surrounding everything. She walked slowly because of it. Suddenly, everything went black. No amount of blinking could clear it.
She froze where she was, slightly scared by the sudden blackness that engulfed her. "Ariel?"
"What's wrong child?"
"I...I can't see!"