Eihm giggled insanely as he rammed two wooden, toy carriages together. He continued to make such racket, driving Ariel nearly to her wits end. How Mornië stood the constant noise, she would never know.
“Aunt Ariel?” The little boy looked up at her as if a worrisome thought had suddenly entered his young, sheltered mind. “Where’s ‘Geal?”
Ariel smiled at his nickname for his sister. “Um, she’s away.”
“When will she come back?”
Ariel’s voice caught in her throat, unable to speak, she just smiled at the small boy for a moment as she regathered her composure. “I’m not sure Eihm.” She fought back tears of frustration and helplessness. Ariel quickly distracted the child with his toys before he could ask any more questions.
She had become Eihm’s primary caretaker since Aingeal’s disappearance a few days before.
Mornië and Athrun were exhausting themselves in their desperate search for their daughter, but nothing new showed itself for all their efforts.
They had searched the woods for any sign of travel or struggle. Ariel was beginning to wonder if they should be looking for a corpse. She shoved these thoughts away viciously; Aingeal had to be alive. A girl that determined to have her freedom would not surrender to Mandos very easily.
Eavan woke from his light sleep, hardly refreshed. He was soaking and cold, though the rain had stopped sometime in the night. He had hobbled his horse nearby, and burrowed down in the underbrush off the path to escape the brunt of the storm. Standing up, he stretched stiffly, wringing out his cloak the best he could.
The golden pink rays of the sun were just peaking over the tips of the trees, filtering down in little fingers of golden light that danced across the ground. The trees hung heavily with the rain, and the sound of the drops falling from their bows could be heard.
Eavan surveyed the path with a bit of dismay. The rain had packed and smoothed the path, removing all traces of any tracks. He moved to where he had left his horse and quickly un-hobbled the animal, balling up his heavy drenched cloak and tucking it under the saddle bags.
He continued on foot for a way, chewing on a piece of dried meat that he had dug from inside one of the saddle bags as he went. Here and there, small signs of passing persons showed themselves, but he was no tracker, and it was hard to distinguish which marks had been made by a person, and which were simply a result of nature.
“Stealing a priceless, heavily guarded gem would be easier than this.” Eavan muttered half to himself, half to his horse. “Whoever this is, it had better be worth it.” He felt somewhat ashamed at this thought, but shrugged it away. “You now, it’s going to be kind of embarrassing if this turns out to be nothing.” His horse whuffled in response.
He returned his gaze to the path. Much of the time he was just guessing at where he should be going. As the sun slowly rose into sky, he debated with himself about why he was even on this wild goose chase to begin with. Twice he met the tracks of a deer or other wild animal crossing the fresh damp earth of the path. As the sun crept to its peak overhead, he finally stopped, extracting some more food from his saddle bags.
“You know,” He spoke to his horse idly as he rested, “I really shouldn’t be worried about this at all, I’ve got a great life ahead of me; plenty of food, drink and women.”
The horse grunted indifferently in response. Eavan stared at the horse for a few moments thoughtfully as he chewed. Finally he stood, patting the horse on its muzzle. “You’re right,” He said, as if the animal had spoken to him, “If I don’t find any reason to continue in the next few hours, I’ll go on my way.”
Amarth pulled a small vial from his bags and held it to the light. The yellowish liquid twinkled slightly. With a satisfied nod, he strode toward his captive. “Open your mouth,” he growled.
Aingeal stiffened and clamped her lips tightly closed.
“Don’t make me force it into you because I will, and it will be most unpleasant. Do yourself a favour.”
She shook her head.
“Very well then.” Amarth backhanded her, then hauled her to her knees. He placed the heel of his right hand on her forehead, holding her nose with the same hand. The blow had dazed her, and she was gasping for breath. Amarth poured the liquid into her mouth, clamping her jaw closed after throwing the vial into the grass.
Aingeal grimaced and choked on the bitter liquid as it burned its way down her throat. Gasping and coughing as Amarth let her go, she recoiled from him, collapsing in the grasp. She could taste blood on her lip as a small droplet fell from her chin to the damp grass where she lay collapsed, a reminder of his continued cruelty.
“Get up,” Amarth kicked her viciously in the ribs, “We’ve still a ways to go before resting.”
Aingeal attempted to gain her feet, struggling with her hands bound before her. “Why don’t you just kill me now and get it over with?!” she demanded, surprised by her own boldness with this man who held her life in his palm.
“So, you have spirit after all!” Amarth just laughed. “If I killed you now, what use would you be to me. I receive vindication from your suffering. My soul is redeemed by your wounds. Your death shall free me from everything I am enslaved to.”
“You’re crazy,” Aingeal spat at him, her contempt fuelling her bold speech.
“Perhaps a little, young one, but no more than the rest of this wretched world.”
“I must be crazy,” Eavan glanced around. It had to be nearly 6 o’clock in the evening, and he had found nothing more than more broken branches in the last few hours. He glanced at his horse. “You’re not going to let me stop are you?” The animal glared at him. Eavan laughed and shook his head as his gaze fell back to the ground. “I am crazy. I’m talking to my horse.”
He pushed ferns and low-growing plants out of his way, half-watching for footprints and things. He wasn’t really expecting to find anything. Whoever had passed this way was covering their tracks very well; that or he was an even worse outdoors man than he had previously thought.
Eavan continued shuffling through the undergrowth, dragging his feet tiredly. He was fast approaching exhaustion, and his stomach grumbled loudly in protest to his continued lack of sustenance. His booted toe connected with something that definitely was not organic. He heard a soft chink and a rattle as whatever it was bounced over the rough ground before reaching a new resting point.
He stopped and knelt, carefully picking up a small empty glass vial from the grass. There were still a few droplets of vile smelling liquid inside of it, which he took to mean it had not been there overly long. He examined the surrounding area where he had found the vial. The grass was broken and flattened in the surrounding area, as if someone had fallen and lain there briefly.
In a few spots he found the earth torn up. Probably from a boot heel being dug into the ground. A scuffle of sorts had apparently taken place. He brushed his hand through the grass, looking for any other signs he may have missed.
Finding nothing else of interest, Eavan turned his interest back to the vile. What little liquid remained was an odd, opalescent yellow. The smell faintly reminded him or something that he could not quite place.
“Well, here goes nothing,” he breathed a silent prayer as he let a few drops fall into his mouth.
He knew as well as anyone that testing foreign substances by taste was foolish, but he felt there was no other alternative in this case. A sickly sweet burning rippled over his tongue.
Eavan gagged and spit into the grass. “An antidote.” He took a quick drink of water from one of his skins. “Why is there a vial that once contained an antidote for Rodyn here of all places?” He rattled off the effects of the poison out loud as he gave the area one final search. “A slow acting poison that upon entering its victim’s bloodstream causes fever, hallucinations, and headaches; all easily brushed off as common illnesses until it’s too late.”
He tucked the vial into one of the saddle bags as he returned to the path to search for tracks as he continued to give his horse a lesson on the effects of the poison Rodyn. “As the poison nears the end of its cycle, the victim may experience small seizures, loss of conciousness, and other various symptoms, ultimately ending in the victim’s death.” That old village hag had taught him well. However, he was now even more worried about whoever it was he was tracking.
Rodyn was extremely hard to come by, and even the antidote was even more rare. It was evident that he was tracking more than one person as well. He was inclined to think from all the signs that one was being held against their will. Perhaps they deserved what they were getting, but he couldn’t help the uneasy feeling in his gut that drove him on.
If the antidote was being used at the right intervals, the effects of the poison could be slowed long enough to suit the purposes of whoever administered the poison; but it’s side effects would be horrendous. The antidote caused the entire body to detoxify itself: vomiting and other unpleasantness could be expected.
Eavan quickened his pace, his former weariness and hunger completely forgotten. He knew in the back of his mind that he was this persons last and probably only hope of survival.