(Part 31) For a complete list of this series, please go here.
Aerissa awoke to rays of sunshine streaming in through the window and across her face. She squinted, her eyes swollen and sore from crying. After she had gone upstairs, she had taken a long, hot bath. Twyla had checked on her and offered her own bed to Aerissa for the night since the inn had no vacancy. Aerissa appreciated the gesture, but felt the bed had been wasted on her. She barely slept through the night, tossing and turning, her heart aching at the loss of Locke.
Twyla had been quick to have the guards remove Locke's body before morning so that no one else would bear witness to his true end. To Twyla, the only thing Aerissa needed to know was that the plague had overtaken his body and ended his life. She couldn't allow Aerissa to know the full truth.
Aerissa shivered, although the room was not cold, and sat up on the bed. She rested against the headboard and drew her knees to her chest, wrapping her arms around them tightly. Resting her forehead upon her knees, she cried quietly. Only a few tears were left to spill down her cheeks.
She thought back to when she first encountered Locke in Eversong Woods and the deep bond they had formed – as huntress and companion. Aerissa mourned the loss of Locke more than she had mourned the loss of anything else in her life. A dull ache filled her chest. Aerissa felt empty and lost without him.
“Ah, ye be awake. Want me ta bring ye some breakfast?” Twyla asked from the doorway, concern and warmth filling her voice.
Without looking up, Aerissa shook her head. The knot in the pit of her stomach was not making room for food anytime soon. The thought of eating, let alone doing anything, made her feel sick.
“Well, if ye change yer mind, come down, ok?” Twyla stood silently in the doorway for a few more moments before returning downstairs.
Aerissa spent a few more hours moping in Twyla's room, then decided some fresher air might be good for her. As she stepped off the bed, her knee buckled and a hot, burning sensation shot through her left hip. She sharply sucked in her breath, bracing herself backwards against the bed. Moving to sit on the edge, she felt at her hip. Her scar was hot to the touch and faintly glowing white. Her knee ached from twisting and buckling under her weight.
Frowning, she stared at the scar, unsure what to make of the this resurgence of pain from it. She carefully stood up, placing most of her weight on the opposite leg. Limping to the doorway, she wasn't so sure she wanted to go downstairs anymore as she looked down the hallway at the daunting stairs. A short, spiral ramp to the right caught her eye. Aerissa was never on this floor of the inn before and was curious where it led.
At the top of the ramp, Aerissa was pleasantly surprised. The very top of the building, while roofed, was open. The cracked and crumbling pillars and surrounding wall explained why no one frequented this space anymore. It would be dangerous to get too close to the ledge. The air was brisk and welcome upon her face. Welcoming the solitude, Aerissa hobbled to the middle and sat down to think and just… be.
A few hours later, Aerissa's head bobbed, waking her. She hadn't realized that she had dozed off. Looking up at the sky, she could still see the sun struggling to penetrate the darkness of the Ghostlands. She estimated that it was early afternoon, which was confirmed by a rumble within her stomach. She supposed it was a good sign that her appetite was returning, or at least that her body would demand sustenance even if she didn't desire anything.
“Oh, I didn't know anyone was up here,” came a deep voice from behind her. It gave her a chill up her spine for it was soothing, yet it contained an undertone she could not place.
“It's ok, I didn't know anyone else ever came up here,” she said without turning to see who was behind her.
He walked up, pausing next to her. “This building was very beautiful once. It is a shame it has been so badly damaged over the years.”
Aerissa tilted her head, eying the stranger. He was a tall Sin'dorei male with long black hair that flowed over his shoulders and down his back. His skin was quiet pale, almost ashen. His stance exuded confidence and an air of arrogance. She shrugged, returning her gaze outside.
He continued to talk, his voice reaching her ears, but she couldn't concentrate on what he was saying. After a few moments, he paused, looking down at her. As though she could feel his gaze, she looked up into his piercing eyes. Her breath caught momentarily.
Shaking her head she apologized, “I-I'm sorry. My thoughts drifted away…”
“I was trying to introduce myself, m'lady,” he replied, his face remaining neutral. “As I was saying, I am Lord Varray Askinoth.”
“Nice to meet you. I am Aerissa,” she looked over his shoulder, unable to meet his gaze any longer.
He looked at her pointedly, a slight frown upon his lips, as though he was waiting for something. He motioned upwards with his hand.
Aerissa looked back and forth, confused by what he was waiting for. “Yes?”
“Wouldn't it be proper to rise when introducing yourself?” He cleared his throat gently.
Blushing, she lowered her eyes. “M-my apologies, Varra-”
“Lord. Lord Varry,” he coolly interrupted.
“Yes, Lord Varray. I'm troubled by an old injury today…” Aerissa patted her left leg.
He extended a gloved hand. Hesitantly, she placed her hand within his and rose to her feet with his assistance. She stumbled a bit as her knee had stiffened up. She detected the faint scent of sea salt. Steadying herself, she let go of his hand.
Attempting a poor curtsy, she reintroduced herself. “Pleased to meet you. I am Aerissa.”
He nodded curtly. “Just Aerissa? What is your family name?”
“I… Well, uh, Chasseur, I suppose.” Her brow furrowed.
“You suppose?” he cocked an eyebrow.
“Yes, um, well. I don't really know my family name. But, that was the name I was given or had since I can remember.” Her hip throbbed, making her wince.
“Alright, Lady Aerissa Chasseur. I respect that you wish not to divulge too much information upon our first meeting.” He eyed her curiously. “Are you alright? You appear to be in a great deal of pain.”
“That injury I mentioned…” She pressed her hand to her hip.
“A recent one? Oh no, you said ‘old.' Is it a battle injury?” Varray inquired.
Aerissa frowned. She did not know this man or who he was associated with. She suspected he wasn't connected to Xanadrian, but how could she be certain? “If you'll excuse me, Lord Varray, I… I must go lie down.”
He nodded, firmly grasping her at the elbow. “Of course. Let me assist you down the ramp, then perhaps we can chat again another time.”
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