It had taken a long time, to become accustomed to the choking reek of burning wood and densely packed unwashed bodies. Even days after she had left such a settlement, she could still scent the faint veneer of sewage that seemed to proliferate all cities, could still hear the unrelenting squalor of civilization; the dark soil and greenery of Valenwood were never far from her thoughts, the call of wild things chased her daydreams amid the countless voices and their rasping tongues.
Here, alone in her room in a strange inn, in a strange city, she bent studiously over a book whose pages she scarcely dared touch; her fingertips were light across the brittle, yellowed paper. She was reluctant, yet her eyes drank the words in with fascination in the uncertain light of a flickering candle.
She was young and restless, would have preferred herself away from here but for the keening cry of the books- the pages filled with secrets, the power of ritual and rite and will. She wet her lips uneasily, calloused fingertips hesitating for just a moment before reaching to turn a page, lip curling in revulsion as she caressed the dry, dead fibers of what had once been a plant. In spite of herself, her heart’s steady rhythm quickened, excitement building.
Her tongue traced the smoothness of her teeth, counting them slowly as she leaned back away from the table. Vlyn’s eyes burned from squinting in the dark; her throat felt dry, her tongue thick. Now. I must do it now. I am ready.
Lips pursing, she rose stiffly from the chair, and reached for the blue phial with a brief frown. The cork resisted her fingers, and the smell that emanated from the strange contents was unlike anything she had encountered- spicy, aromatic; just a little bit sour. She hesitated a moment, eyeing the blue liquid with suspicion. It could be poison. Yet there was no way of knowing, and if her suspicions were accurate… She closed her eyes, and offered up a silent prayer, a plea. Y’ffre guide my hand this night; let this be the key I seek. The phial was cool against her lips, and she tilted it back, taking the contents before her steel resolve could rust and blow away to nothing.
The potion was cold against her throat, yet warmth blossomed inside her belly, strangely familiar. She sank to stone floor of her room, coming naturally to a cross-legged pose, hands resting on her kneecaps, long legs and long arms finding grace in meditation as she ruthlessly forced her doubts aside.
Vlyn’s eyes closed and on the canvas of her eyelids, she examined her body as if it were a conduit. Her heart beat a little faster as she pulled a breath of stale air into her lungs. She could see the lines of green-blue power that bled through her veins, could trace them to her center- all trapped inside of her, contained, if barely, by her skin, by her inability to wield it. Yet, anyway. That would soon change.
She could feel the potion’s effects in the lightness in her head, the world falling away around her. And though this would usually be an alarming and unpleasant turn of events, she found it very difficult to care, so lost was she in the beauty of what it was that lurked deep, deep within her.
Here was the key she could use to understand it, right here. Here was the secret she’d kept for so many years, was the reason for the restlessness that plagued her. She swallowed hard past the lump in her throat, forehead furrowed, lips tight against her teeth – her mouth was a hollow cave, her tongue dry within it, fluttering like a pennant in a breeze. Focus! She had to focus, couldn’t do this if she didn’t focus – she reached, puzzling out how to access what she could see so plainly before her. It was there and it was hersand – ahaa….
And suddenly she plunged forward with a shudder and a wordless cry of ecstasy. Here, there was limitless possibility; it was a frozen lake on a summer day, the endless sky to one who had dwelt in a cave all of her life, and she was blinded by exhilaration and power, lost to the magnificence all around her.
It was beautiful.
Vlyn knew no words that could have explained to this to her kin; in that moment itself, she lost the capacity to speak, to think, for what were words when compared to this-? There was nothing that could be compared to it. She was made breathless and boneless by the power of possibility, limitless and seething about her, was lost –
It was eternity; it was heartbeat. Time was no longer a concern, bore no relevance- nothing did, not when compared to this.
And then the world came screaming back into perspective, the reek of the city, the guttering light of the candle as it suddenly extinguished, and the cold, hard stone beneath her. Her stomach twisted with longing, throat suddenly tight, but she shut her eyes against it, forcing herself to focus on the feeling of her body, on the flutter of her pulse –
The book had warned her, that it was easy to lose oneself the first time. The book had strongly suggested a mentor, but who could she ask? Who could she tell?
Slowly, grudgingly, her heartbeat slowed- yet she could still feel the pull of it, the seduction. It called to her and she longed to answer. Vlyn opened her eyes carefully, taking in the gloomy room, reluctant to claim her flesh again, to own her skin and teeth and nails…
But it was enough.