Atholt is burned

Cindra sighed in relief as she entered the small bedroom. She had been looking everywhere for Atholt and here he was, safe and sound with his aunt.

“Well there you two are”, she smiled, “I was worried sick. I should have known you would have him Isabelle. You could have let me know he was with you though”.

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Her heart began to slow, pounding out a throbbing beat in her temples. Her head was aching but it was probably just the heat. Perhaps she would sit down and rest for a moment since Isabelle was minding Atholt anyway.

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“Hope you don’t mind if I take a seat, I really am feeling quite tired”, Isabelle did not answer, so Cindra took that as a yes and slumped down onto the bed.

In fact, it wasn’t just her head that was hurting, but her entire body seemed to have joined in, a deep, rhythmic pounding stretching out to her extremities and then triumphantly thumping its way back again.

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She heard the soft whimpering of Atholt. Just like him, to want his mother now when she was so very tired. Couldn’t he just be happy with his aunt for now. She looked up to see what the problem was and caught sight of Isabelle in the mirror.

Her insides contracted in an icy rush of fear as she saw the face gazing back at her in the mirror. Isabelle’s skin was pallid, clinging grotesquely to the angular bones beneath, their stark white forms visible in places. Her eyes were dull and milky, sunken into the dark hollows of their sockets, staring blindly as she turned rigidly towards Cindra, her limbs awkwardly jerking.

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Atholt was struggling weakly in her arms, his tiny body shivering at her frigid touch. He raised a feeble hand towards his mother, his eyes welling with tears that threatened to run down his trembling cheeks.

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Cindra leapt to her feet, her exhaustion forgotten.

“Give him to me!”, she cried, reaching out towards her son’s precious body.

Isabelle stared at her blankly, clutching the baby to her wasted chest.

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Terrified for Atholt, Cindra reached forward and yanked him from Isabelle’s unresisting arms.

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She pulled his warm body against hers, shuddering in terror as she watched Isabelle’s face. Isabelle looked at her nephew, lying in Cindra’s arms, her head pivoting slowly downwards on her emaciated neck with an audible click.

Without warning searing flames burst from her chest, showering Cindra and Atholt with sparks.

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Cindra leapt backwards with a shriek of horror. Atholt began to howl, writhing in her arms so that she almost dropped him.

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She began to move, slowly backing towards the door, still facing Isabelle, her tiny hand clenched into a trembling fist, ready if she came towards them. Isabelle turned to watch them go but she did not move as the sparks began to set alight the rug beneath her feet.

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She turned towards the door, desperately groping with her free hand at the doorknob. Atholt was screaming in her arms, coughing and choking on the smoke that billowed up around them.

Cindra sobbed in terror as she realised that the door was locked, and try as she might she could not manage to wrench it upon. She beat against it with her fist until her knuckles were bleeding, praying that someone on the other side would hear her.

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The tapestry burst into flames with a roar of heat, great tongues of fire raged upwards through the embroidered forest turning the leaves and trees into blackened ashes, carefully woven threads curling up in the heat.

Isabelle stood amongst the flames, unaffected by the baking heat as the hungry flames licking up her body. Tendrils of fire wrapped around her, peeling back her robes with incandescent fingers, to consume the pallid flesh beneath.

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Cindra stared transfixed by the horrific sight, as parts of Isabelle’s body began to crumble away, the skin boiling and bubbling on her face, her lips pulled back from her teeth in a dreadful leer of pain or pleasure.

She saw Isabelle fall to her knees and then she disappeared amongst the towering flames.

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Suddenly, with an animal cry of pain, Isabelle launched herself from the fire towards Cindra and Atholt, her hand reaching out towards Atholt. Atholt’s hand flew up in panic as Cindra tried to shield him. Isabelle managed to brush his frantically waving hand with one charred finger, before the fire drew her back into its depth, folding her writhing body in the searing heat of its embrace.

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Atholt screamed in pain, a raw red mark flaring up where Isabelle had touched him. The drapes on the bed burst into flame with a rush of hot air. Cindra felt scorching pain as her dress caught alight, the flimsy material of her veil curling and crackling in the heat. She pressed her body over Atholt’s tiny form to protect him from the baking heat that surrounded them.

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Cindra woke, her heart pounding, her face hot and sticky, her nightgown clinging to her sweat-soaked body. Her nose had begun to bleed again, hot liquid pouring down to her mouth, a metallic taste in her throat.

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She waited for the baby’s cries to subside in her ears as she groped her way out of the terrible nightmare until she realised that she was awake and Atholt was really crying.

She pushed herself out of bed, rushing over to his crib. He was lying there, his tiny arms flailing in panic, his cheeks stained with tears and sweat.

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“Shhh my poor little man, it’s alright then. I’m awake now”, she lifted his feverish body carefully from the crib and into her arms.

He wailed as her nightgown brushed against his hand and she peered down at him in the darkness. There on his tiny hand was a small patch of blistered, red skin, the shape of a finger tip. She looked down into his horrified upturned eyes and shrieked.

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She felt Garrick by her side, the unpleasant warmth of his large body, the stench of ale on his breath.

“What… what’s wrong… is somethin’ wrong with Atholt”, he slurred heavily leaning against the crib.

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“She burnt him!”, she shrieked mindlessly, “she burnt him!”.

Garrick’s arms reached furtively towards them and then dropped uselessly to his sides.

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Lochan decides

“Calm down Lochan!”, Eallair scolded, juggling the squirming baby in his arms, “you’re upsetting him”.

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“If you will excuse me Your Highness, but I will confess that the sensibilities of the crown prince are hardly my primary concern at this very moment!”, Lochan snarled in reply.

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Eallair was stung by Lochan’s use of his title. He never called him anything but Eallair when they were alone together, and it was an unpleasant sensation to be reminded of his status by someone he considered more than his equal. There had been many a time he had born witness to the dagger of his older cousin’s temper, but never had the point of the blade been turned on himself. He could scarcely find the words to reply and so he stumbled over them like the idiot he seemed to continually be proving himself to be.

“Lochan, stop worrying, Cindra will be fine. You got there in time. She isn’t hurt, just a little frightened”.

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He bent his face unthinkingly to the soft, warm head of his son who had laid it heavily against his shoulder, apparently growing tired of Lochan’s ranting.

Eallair understood the sentiment and wished fervently to be small again, resting quietly on someone’s strong shoulder, free from the responsibilities of a Kingdom.

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“Stop worrying”, Lochan growled, “Stop worrying!? Had I got there a moment later he would have killed her. It was damn lucky I was there but what if I hadn’t been?”

“And all you can think about is your son! Your people need you more than ever now. They are terrified, people are dying, falling prey to this murderer, perhaps even to a member of our own party as well, and all you can do is croon and coo like a doting git!”

Eallair withdrew his face from the soft skin of his son’s drowsy head as though its plesant warmth suddenly scorched him. He gazed at Lochan, his throat constricting in panic as he tried to keep his benign smile from dragging downwards at the corners and sliding from his face.

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He felt sick deep in the pit of his stomach, the unpleasant roiling, churning that was always present whenever a decision was required or his opinion was questioned. His throat felt dry, the fluttering of his heart sucking all the moisture from his mouth as he tried to think of what Lochan would most like to hear from him.

Then he saw the door click open before him and his steward walked in. The corners of his smile leapt up again, the limp arms of a puppet jerked upwards on its strings.

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“Garald”, he said congenially with a subtle swallow to hide the dryness of his throat, “I suppose you are here to take this little fellow back to his mother”.

“Yes Your Highness”, Garald said, his soft spoken voice echoing oddly in a room where anger had recently rebounded from the walls, “she is asking for him”.

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Lochan strode over to the chair and lowered himself heavily into it with a sigh. Eallair could not mistake the sound of his exhaustion.

He gently passed the baby into Garald’s waiting arms, “Tell the Queen I shall be a while still, she shouldn’t wait up”.

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“And you should be off to bed too Garald, your work is done for the night and I am sure your wife is waiting for you”, he winked but even his eyelid drooped heavily on its string, so it was not the hearty gesture he was hoping for.

“Thank you Your Majesty, but I still have some paperwork to attend to before I retire”, Garald replied softly.

“Oh well, as you wish then”, he saw Garald out the door and then came to stand behind Lochan, laying a hand gently on his shoulder.

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“She will be alright you know, she’s a tough little thing. Don’t you worry, we haven’t seen the end of her pranks and I am sure these halls have definitely not rung with the last of her laughter”.

Somehow by sheer luck he had managed to stumble on the very thing that was worrying Lochan the most. His cousin’s face crumpled, the haughty ridges crumbling, the angry lines slumping, his expression sagging weakly after holding up the weight of his rage. All that was left was a miserable grimace.

“I’m sorry Eallair”, Lochan mumbled, “You didn’t see what he did to her poor little face”.

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He turned towards him and Eallair felt the thrill of apprehension, the quickening of his pulse and knew that his opinion was required again. His throat went dry once more as he tried to stir his brain into action. His mouth twisted upwards into the benign smile that had become a reflex for him when he was panicking inside.

“Something must be done Eallair”, Lochan sighed, “It can’t go on like this. Nowhere is safe for our people now if he would dare to come to the ships”.

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“But what can we do Lochan, we have searched everywhere within a days travel and there is no way he could have gotten further away than that”, Eallair pressed his cousin, in the hope that Lochan had some idea of what to do and would direct him, because he certainly didn’t.

“That is why I think we must set a trap”.

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Eallair’s stomach relaxed and his heart began to beat normally again, Lochan had come through for him again and he felt a rush of gratitude for his friend. Then the reality of what Lochan had said rushed in and his belly clenched painfully once more. His hunter’s instinct told him that a trap like this would need bait.

“But Lochan”, he cried in dismay, “this is a madman we are talking about. A madman and a murderer!”

His voice lowered to a whisper, “He bit Goodwife Rawtharn on the throat Lochan, and from what you said what he did to poor Goodwife Barran…”

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He thought for a moment, “And there is still Sister Mella, from what The countess and Father Harndall remember they were attacked by her. What if she is with him?”

Lochan sighed heavily, “If we go on this way we will lose more people and we cannot afford to. There are pitifully few of us as it is”.

“I think we must take the risk. I believe it is the only way”, he said with reassuring finality.

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Eallair did not like to admit it to himself, but he was relieved that Lochan had made a decision and he could follow his lead. He could not entirely ignore his misgivings however as he stared at Lochan’s resolute face.

“God help us all”, he muttered.

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I haven’t forgotten

Hey all. Just a quick post to say I haven’t forgotten poor old Mhalwae. At the moment it has unfortunately been taking a back seat to my uni work and a trip to Copenhagen so I haven’t had a chance to even answer my comments. But they will be answered in the very near future (tomorrow I hope) so sorry if you felt I was ignoring you :( Also even though I haven’t had the time to write a new chapter I couldn’t have even if I had the time since the poor old hard drive is still very much in the broken state and neither of us has had a moment to take it back to the shop and whinge enough for them to give us a new one free of charge. So that is the current status of Mhalwae… I hope you won’t forget about it during this short hiatus. Hopefully it will be back and running in not too long. I am still toying with the idea of doing the chapter early so if this hard drive mess goes on too long you might get that soon.

I should also take this opportunity to mention the fact that I am going back to Australia for 6 weeks over Christmas (hurrah!) which while good means I will be without sims which is bad. The plan was to take a whole lot of pictures before I left (in about 3 1/2) weeks so that I would have stuff to write while I am away but that has been mucked up a bit by the hard drive breaking and the onslaught of work in preparation for leaving. So I will endeavour to keep chapters coming out over the 6 weeks… hopefully at least one a week but I can’t promise right now. Just wanted to let you know in advance so it wouldn’t be a nasty shock like last time (although that was really my fault leaving you hanging with Harndall and Valeriya like that *evil grin*).

OKay… and I guess that’s all I wanted to say… keep up the simming!

Hard drive borken!

Hi guys… there won’t be an update for a bit (well there might be one, I have something I was planning to use in a few posts but I could step it up sooner) because my stupid hard drive has kicked the bucket again. We only got it like three months ago! Arg! So annoying! Luckily I had backed up fairly recently, and I managed to at least get the latest version of the Mhalwae neighbourhood. Do you guys know if it is enough just to have that and then merge it with the older backup or will that cause problems. Unfortunately I couldn’t get my downloads folder but I don’t think there was that much new stuff (although I had organised and done the genetics for all the Barcelonista eyes so it will be a pain to do that again). But really, I’m not complaining, at least I could get the important stuff. I can’t believe it broke again. And in the same spot too because it was only making that dire clicking when I was playing the sims, and then when I was trying to backup my sims files (and last time it broke in the sims playing area too). I must be wearing a hole in all these hard drives with too much sims playing. Meh.

I guess it is a good excuse to get the new EP since I will have to reinstall the whole ruddy lot of them anyway (I had been avoiding it because I didn’t want the major hassle I usually get with reinstalling the sims). I can never get the new EP working straight up and it is always inevitable for me that I will have to do a full reinstall. So at least I will get swimmable beaches and big forest trees in return for the broken hard drive suffering.