The Choosing of Parlan Mire
By Cliona in Dark Ages
Cliona stood, dripping. She gathered up her soaked hair in her small white hands, pushing it behind her shoulders where it began to dry, curling, in dark brown waves. She made her way, nude and unashamed, to where Ulick sat atop one of the largest boulders. Secluded in one of Undine's many rocky shores, the two took a break from their traveling, swimming in the cool waters to escape the oppressive southern humidity, forgotten in the cool northern town of Mileth.
Ulick watched from the shore, his coulette drying beside him, crisp and freshly washed with soap stones and clean river water. Appreciatively, he watched Cliona begin to climb the smaller rocks leading to where he lay, one knee crooked, the other stretched out, his foot dangling over the naturally-designed cliff of rock.
Sighing contentedly, Cliona sat beside him, laying her cheek against the broad plane of Ulick's chest, her eyes closing as he laid his hand upon her head, ever-so-gently stroking back her long hair. Within moments she was asleep.
They painted a lovely picture, lying there, young faces bare to the sun, their skin growing ever so slightly pink with the exposure, tanning Cliona's light Mileth skin beneath the burn, pale freckles growing more noticeable across her nose.
He watched from the woods, unnoticed, his dusty red cowl falling before his eyes, hiding them, black as night, from the daytime sun. He crouched behind the Ancusca plants growing between the boulders, the spicy scent of the wet weeds clinging to his cloak. Black hair hung in wet strands down his forehead, matting itself to his skin. His torn fingers clung hard to the rocks, light trickles of blood pooling beneath his dirt-packed nails. The smell of his own body and sour fear-sweat clung to him, permeating him through and through. He shook with anticipation of the cool cleansing waters so desperately close, his body quivering with the tangible desperation he felt for liquid, his throat as dry as the dusty desert plains of Ardmagh.
From their spot atop their chosen boulder, the two Aislings lay still, the sun dipping down low over the trees, their shadows growing long across the browning summer grasses, their skin bronzed and, over that, pink. Ulick awoke first, shaking a strong callused hand through his near-crimson hair, disapproving for a moment as it grazed his shoulders. It was growing untidy, soon he would have to seek out a talented rogue for the trim. Ulick looked around a moment, sitting up, his back popping along the vertebra. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes, blinking curiously, his gaze turning to the small pink creature beside him. Cliona.
Ulick stirred to life, letting himself roll onto her belly, his elbows propping his chest up above her, easing the bulk of his weight from her small frame. He watched Cliona in sleep for another moment before advancing, letting his lips trail feather light kisses along the soft curve of her neck, her raw flesh feeling his soft lips even more keenly. Her eyes opened, her lashes fluttering, an appreciative noise building in the back of her throat, something between a moan and a growl.
She sought Ulick's mouth with her lips, catching him easily for a long impassioned moment, soon letting her head fall back, rendered helpless by her long nap. In a moment Ulick's talented lips found the meeting of flesh and hair at the back of her neck. Squirming in a mixture of delight and ticklish embarrassment, Cliona realized the fence of Ulick's arms on either side of her, trapping her between the rock and the proverbial hard place. Ulick chuckled into her curly hair, her eyes rolling skyward in her shyness. Ulick laughed loudly, more with her than at her, when there came a sudden splash from the water's edge.
Two pairs of glittering, dilated eyes turned towards the source of the sound. An Aisling sat crouched at the edge of the pool, his hand cupped and dripping water, stopped in mid-motion between the glass surface of the pond and his chin, for it, too, dripped water. After a moment's hesitation, the Aisling began madly scooping water to his lips, panicking. Ulick rolled off of the boulder, landing lightly on his feet and pulling his coulette on in a single swift motion, calling out a hoarse warning to the Aisling now struggling to his torn bare feet, still scooping water even as the powerful monk began his maddened chase.
Cliona, having meanwhile spent these past seconds flushing a deep red, herself slid off their perch, pulling her gown up over her legs and slim hips, poking her arms through the sturdy straps. Leaving her boots behind, Cliona grabbed up her Zeus, her most valued tool of the trade, chasing after her love, following the vague feel of him through the thick Undine woods, which were more like riverbanks bordering on one another than true forests.
Ulick followed the Aisling closely, pacing himself, noticing meanwhile that his feet were bleeding and raw, his cloak dusty and thick, woolen, completely unsuited for the hot, balmy summers of Undine. The Aisling's hood fell back, revealing wet and oily black hair, pale skin on his neck. Even from nearly seven paces behind him, Ulick could hear the Aisling's raspy breathing, smell the rank odor of human captivity. The Aisling glanced behind him, his black eyes wide with fear, his face flushed, with the week-old stubble of young beard covering his chin.
His attention diverted, the Aisling tripped, his sore feet betraying him, his hands shoving out in front of him, the folds of his cloak caught in the sticker bushes around him. He fell in a heap, caught and rolling, rolling down the rocky bank and into a shallow pool, his body pulled close, quaking in fear of the infuriated monk trailing him.
Ulick pulled up to watch the pitiful Aisling shake and quiver, listening for Clio as she beat her way out of the bushes, seeing her lips form words, then squinting slightly against the cool blue-violet light surrounding her a moment, wounds healing, leaving only small spots of dried blood upon her tender feet. Cliona stood beside Ulick, her breathing heavy not only with the exertion of healing but also of running, as well as the first initial shock of having been discovered in the most compromising of positions.
Autumn descended upon Temuair. The Aislings Ulick and Cliona Malkier returned to Mileth from their trip to the Font at Undine and with them they brought an Aisling going by the name of Parlan Mire. A contradiction of terms. One a simple farmer, mundane. The last, his family name, betraying a great line of warriors.
Parlan, a simple young man no older than nineteen, had been for all his life a simple boy of the farm, handsome and strong, a man of the earth. He'd had all the lovers he could ever desire, all the friends and prestige of his home. Then, one day, it was all gone.
He had become an Aisling. Immediately he set off for the north, leaving his berry farm behind, traveling through the woods and shores of the great peninsula of Suomi, focused on getting to the port and traveling to the great Aisling town of Mileth. At some point in his travels, though, he'd gone wrong. A wrong turn is a wrong turn, regardless of whether you are a mundane or Aisling. Lost in the maze of rivers and banks, thick, almost impassible forests, and the disorienting play of hill and valley, without any skills as an Aisling, it is no surprise that Parlan became lost. With only a ragged shirt, some old breeches and a castoff pair of boots to protect him from the upcoming savage winter, Parlan found himself desperate. Knowing no skills, with not mentor to teach him, he was forced to wander the forests, using only a crudely carved branch as a sword.
Killing creatures of the forest for food, slowly gathering gems and valuables, hoarding them in his leather sack, a store of riches until he was found, until he could trade them in for all he could ever want: a warm room at Riona's inn.
Sooner than he expected, Parlan began feeling insights. His strength at hunting grew, and he found himself sometimes strong enough to begin creating new weapons, great heavy clubs of wood or, sometimes, sharp swords of fallen hardwoods. Once Parlan attempted to chisel a heavy sword of Undine stone, but a misplaced blow of his chipping stone had crumbled it.
It was around this time when Parlan began hearing the voices of the gods of Aosda, softly. With every insight he could feel Deoch's eternal fire pass through him as if a specter, hear Fiosachd's conspiratorial whisper, sense Cail's peace beside him in the dead of night. Confidence soared within Parlan, and he no longer fed the notion of finding Mileth and learning the skills of an Aisling. He counted close to fifty insights and still he had no path, only strength and vitality, inspiration and swiftness. His mind was no less nimble than his body, and slowly the strength grew within him to heed the words of the Aosda, giving rise to wisdom, the ability to fight off the magical blows of the creatures he fought.
It was with great shock that this peasant Aisling, with insight beyond all others, found himself half-starved and nude, shivering and sweltering, deep within the caves beneath Undine. Desperately, Parlan tried to recreate the events in his mind. His last clear memory was of stalking through the forest towards the river to bathe, when a goblin had come crashing from the woods, its guttural cries deafening. Parlan raised his sword for a deadly blow, but instead found himself torn, ripped apart by winds, bright as lightning and hotter than fire itself. Thunder crackled all around him, blood began to pour from his ears.
It ended as quickly as it had begun, with Parlan's swift blow felling the goblin, and Parlan himself falling to the ground, his blood soaking the bed of yellowed leaves, falling unconscious.
He remembered after that only glimpses, just as easily dreams as reality. A red potion, the color of blood, flowing into his mouth, sweet and delicious, lifesaving elixir. Then the sensation of being dragged over land, and falling...
He remembered glimpses of humans... Aislings! Dressed in black from head to toe, their heads covered by cowls, their faces hidden. He remembered chants, dark and forbidding, and the constant beat of a drum from dusk until dawn. He remembered strange creatures, inhuman females dressed in black, leather stretched over skeletal wings... a bat's wings. He remembered ghouls and goblins out of childhood picture books, carvings upon the ruins of an ancient castle... the Dubhaim!
Whenever his memories grew clear and he felt himself getting stronger, an Aisling would come, a small pot of potion in their hands, precious liquid in a well devoid of water. Parlan found himself each time grabbing the potion and pushing the Aisling away, drinking down the potion and immediately drifting into sleep, weaker tenfold because of it.
When Parlan had awoken, his gaze drifted over the small pots, then lifted one filled with rancid water, bringing it to his lips, wondering if he could force himself to drink it. One quick whiff of the little pot told him quite plainly that what had once filled them, that which he had so readily drunk, was Hemloch, the deadliest of all Aisling poisons. He felt his strength slowly returning, but never would it be, he thought, ever half of what it would be. Still, even a quarter of his old strength would be enough.
He stood unsteadily, looking around. Light cascaded from above, burning his eyes, but providing light so scarce in days past. Parlan found a cowl upon the floor, shoved into a corner, just enough to cover his nakedness and restore some semblance of dignity. Thirst burned at him. He gazed up the brick walls, noticing several likely cracks which could provide footholds.
You're not so blessed with my gifts as you think, Aisling.
Fiosachd's whisper was enough to cause Parlan's legs to give out beneath him, dropping him in an instant, his chest heaving with adrenaline, a mix of fear and relief. The gods had not forsaken him. Quietly, Parlan tried to formulate a plan.
"Ho there, lad!"
Parlan lifted his head as the shadow passed above him, forming itself into a man, looking down into the well. Sun beat down around him, forming his silhouette. Every cell in Parlan's body cried out and for all his relief could think of no reply.
"You look like you could use a bit of help!"
Parlan stared in wonder, unable to find his tongue, so unused with all this time in the forest and alone, down, at the bottom of this abandoned well, only the chants and curses of the worshippers of Darkness to accompany him. Parlan's savior laughed heartily before disappearing, only to return a moment later, dropping a long rope down to the bottom. Parlan took a hold of it, unsure. He looked skyward, seeing the other man take a hold of the rope, one boot braced upon the well.
Parlan swallowed. "I might be too heavy for you!"
The man laughed and in less than an instant, Parlan found himself skittering up the wall, hauled up by the rope and then two strong hands about his sides, pulling him to his feet.
"Are you feeling better now, lad?"
Parlan nodded dumbly. Strength emanated from this man. Somewhere in the back of his mind he attempted to classify him, but only strength came to him. Strength beyond that of any human, living or dead. Certainly never a mundane, but his eyes were too wizened to be an Aisling.
He wore glinting chain mail, heavy around his chest with leather breeches bulging over hardened muscles. His greaves shone as polished copper and a bright blue cape hung from his shoulders. Tanned from the sun, his hair bleached blonde by that same sun, he was handsome almost beyond words. Parlan nodded slowly in reply. The man nodded, smiling good-naturedly, and placed a gauntleted hand upon Parlan's shoulder. He nodded towards the woods.
"There's a river not far from here. You need water. Light be with you, Parlan."
Parlan nodded dumbly, blinked, and found himself alone. Without questioning the strangeness of it, Parlan stumbled into the woods looking for water, finding only Ulick, Cliona, and civilization.
The mundane teachers and elder warrior Aislings of Mileth looked upon Parlan with shock and something not far from jealousy. This Aisling, a peasant, free of teachers, possessed strength unlike they had ever imagined. Parlan himself was quite shocked at himself, amazed by his too-quick recovery and the newfound strength found with almost no effort during their brief travels from Undine to Abel and once more to Mileth. Parlan sat quietly, listening to the arguments as the mundanes left their shops to collectively gather in the Tavern. Their arguments were one-sided, with no regard for the wants of Parlan, who sat quietly, nursing a mug of ale and munching contemplatively upon a piece of bread.
Dar argued that the potential for magic was strong within him, that he would make a proud wizard of fire. Devlin argued that such gentleness should not go unrewarded, that he should enter the priesthood. The Rogue argued that one able to subsist so long on the creatures of the glade was nothing less than a rogue at heart. The warrior pounded his fist over and over again, insisting that this strength could not be wasted, that Parlan had chosen his path the moment he lifted his first blade.
Parlan watched this all quietly, taking it in as easily as the Aislings gathered about, with patience for the mundanes. He looked up curiously at the hand upon his arm, finding green eyes gazing down through crimson hair. Ulick. The Aisling nodded him to follow, then lead him out of the tavern unnoticed.
Ulick shook his head. "The mundanes haven't had this much excitement since the great exodus of Deoch 5."
Parlan chuckled, despite the fact he had no idea what that meant. "Where are we going?"
"I'm taking you through the temple. They'll argue it until the cows come home, and even then you're still under no obligation to take their advice. Besides..." Ulick glanced over at Parlan as they climbed the Temple's stone steps. "... I think you've chosen already."
They entered the stone temple. Parlan reeled at the gargoyles jutting from the walls, the stone pillars, the scent of age all around them. It wasn't a musty scent at all, but clean, smelling distinctly of goodness.
Ulick smiled and disappeared into the next room, leaving Parlan to quietly consider his choices. He followed Ulick through the circles, making his choices quickly and surely. He met the magic of the circles with his head held high, quavering only slightly at the first tough, reassuring himself that this magic would not harm him as so many others had. Quickly it became apparent that there was no other choice but to be a warrior. It was all he knew. Ulick smiled to see this Aisling so pleased, finally able to become what he had always wanted to be.
Parlan entered the final room, the room of the Demigod, with some trepidation. He was unsure what he would find, and could not have been more shocked at what he did. Recognition hit him immediately. He turned to face Ulick, paled.
"What??" Ulick put a hand on Parlan's shoulder to steady him. "What is it?"
"Who is that?!" Parlan turned an accusing finger to the apparition on the other side of the room. Ulick glanced over.
"Ceannlaidir. God of war. Why?"
Parlan blinked and looked back. "I've met him."
Ulick stared, considered the implications of this. His voice was low, soft, awestruck. "Then I guess we're in the right place."
Parlan was later known as the "Warrior Prince", for he was chosen by Ceannlaidir, the only warrior greater than he.
~Cliona Malkier, Deoch 6
"The Choosing of Parlan Mire"