Onsallas Outpost, Longfang Territory: Shortly after discovering Soulvieg’s artifact.
“Brother, I think I am ready to see home again.” Ranmir told Stanrick.
“We will need to find you a place to stay, Selena and I have taken over Mother’s and we need it ready to raise a pup again.” He replied.
“I understand, if we cannot find a place, it isn’t as if I don’t know how to make shelter, maybe we can raise a small shack for me on the outskirts. I don’t know if I’m ready to be in the center of things anyway. I may just stay in the outpost for a while…”
“No! No brother of mine will stay at the outpost! You are coming home. Let’s go.”
Ranmir and Stanrick started to gather their equipment to head to Onsallas Village, but were interrupted by Reyna and Fritha.
“We’ve been discussing the possibility of you returning to the village, cousin” Reyna said to Ranmir, “and we do not think you should enter the village before you are clean.”
“So, I’ll bathe, no problem, I can fetch the water now.”
This time it was Fritha to respond, “Water will not clean off what we are concerned about. We feel that you have spent too much time in the Dirge Swamp to be allowed into the village without taking certain measures for the corruption, and Thrand agrees.”
“Why does EVERYONE keep talking about me behind my back. I heard you the first night I came into the outpost, wondering who I was, if I should be trusted, why I brought the news! You SHOULD have just asked me! WHY didn’t you just ASK me?!”
“Brother,” Stanrick said consolingly, “please calm down. We did not know who you were, you came in with a worrying message about what is coming, and a cryptic one about who you were. This temper is not like what I remember you to be.”
“Yes, cousin, this is what we are talking about,” Reyna said, “the swamp has changed you. We just want to take some precautions to make sure that you are not corrupted.”
Ranmir thought about this for a while as he finished gathering his belongings. Would this hurt? Is there any way to go back to the way he was? Thirteen years alone is a long time, would he be able to rejoin the pack truly? He knew the others hoped it would be possible, as did he. He was feeling a comfort that had not been known since curiosity had gotten the better of him so long ago. He had hoped that he could put an end to the war with the Mordok, much as the war had ended with the Humans and the Syndar. He had failed, but would he be able to succeed at coming home? “What do we need to do, and how long will it take?”
“As of now, cousin, we are not sure.”
In a hut outside Onsallas Village: Three weeks later. Sixth attempt.
Ranmir laid on a pallet in the middle of the room, asleep. Rill stood ready yet again for the signal from Reyna that the draught had sedated him. When Reyna nodded, Rill extended her arms and cast a barrier.
In the same hut outside Onsallas Village: Three days earlier. Fifth attempt.
Ranmir woke with a start. He did not know where he was. He vaguely remembered being brought to this village. The Mordok shaman was once again casting his pain-inducing magic upon him. He tried to grab the Mordok, to fight out of his predicament, but his arms and legs were pinned down. In the background he saw a pointy-eared figure with red eyes extending his arms, preparing for an embrace, with a mocking smile on his lips. He lowered his arms and stepped forward as the Mordok looked to guidance. The red-eyed one spoke.
“Ranmir, calm down please.” It was Rill’s voice, “We are trying to help. If you wish to come back into the village we must make sure that you are safe.”
With a pained look on her face, Reyna double-checked that the restraints were secure. She did not like the idea of tying her cousin down for this, but for their safety, it had to be done.
In the same hut outside Onsallas Village: Two weeks earlier. Second attempt.
Ranmir’s eyes opened. The Mordok shaman was working his staff around his face, attempting Gaia knows what upon him. Ranmir’s hands shot around the throat of the shaman seemingly of their own volition. The red-eyed one took a step forward thrust out his hand and there was a bright flash of light.
Ranmir looked dazedly upon Fritha and Rill. Rill was holding her throat, with Fritha taking a defensive position in front of her.
Reyna called upon Gaia for assistance, to cleanse her cousin of the darkness that the swamp left him with. It would go faster with two, she knew, but they had tried that once…
In the same hut outside Onsallas Village: Two weeks, four days earlier. First attempt.
Ranmir’s chest felt about to burst, he had not breathed this hard since the sprint from the Pineed forest when his brother vanished in front of his eyes. His lungs felt like they were on fire, his heart about to escape his ribcage. Fritha and Reyna crouched in front of pallet upon which he had been resting.
“What is wrong cousin?” Reyna asked.
“It hurts, whatever you are doing, hurts. I can’t take it, it is going too fast.”
“What do you mean, too fast?” This time it was Fritha inquiring.
“I don’t know…the pain…it feels like…fire inside me.”
Gaia’s gift began to flow through Reyna. She saw Ranmir’s face begin to react to the pain he was feeling, even in his slumber.
In the same hut outside Onsallas Village: Six days earlier. Fourth attempt.
Ranmir felt a burning at his fingertips. He looked down at them and saw they were resting in embers. He tried to pull them out but couldn’t move his arms. He could focus on nothing else but his fingers. As he wriggled, he caught a glimpse of a Mordok, but as he tried to look closer only saw Fritha looking down in concentration.
Reyna felt the warmth of Gaia’s love as it tried to replace the darkness that had coalesced on Ranmir.
In a hut outside Onsallas Village: Ten days earlier. Third attempt.
Ranmir looked up at the Mordok. He knew this Mordok, he had seen him somewhere, long ago, or was it only moments ago, could recent events have been a dream? Time seemed to be a blur.
Ranmir’s mind began to travel, as the darkness gave way to light, the time lost to the swamp began to come back. He remembered having been visited by the red-eyed one, who would talk to him and make him forget. He remembered a village of ramshackle buildings being reclaimed, much too new to be Ulven. He remembered the torture, and the sleepless nights. He remembered things he wished he had never seen, and would never see again.
Ranmir woke slowly, unable to speak, his mouth too dry to form words. The bonds had been lifted. Reyna, Fritha and Rill, stood by.
Fritha handed him a bowl of water. “Please drink this, Selena made this cleansed water. She says it helped when she and Stanrick came home sick from the swamp. She wanted to help.” Reyna, Fritha, and Rill had agreed that in her state, it was safer to keep her away.
After a long drink, Ranmir spoke. “I am tired.”
“Please, cousin, tell us what you have seen,” Reyna requested. This had become the order of things since the attack on Rill.
Ranmir simply replied. “When I am ready.”