Elaine has been called by a great sorcerer Benedict to heal his love, a phoenix by the name of Nimue. But all is not what it seems. There are secrets hidden in the plains, love that was forbidden long ago but never lost, and a grudge against what could be a deadly foe.
Elaine stood outside the guarded iron gates. It was a pause before the end of her journey, where she could embrace her new surroundings. She watched the wind move through the trees and make the grass dance and wave. The birds flew high above the clouds and the clouds smiled at the spring in full bloom.
Through her eyes though, the eyes of a Seer, the wind carried colours from rainbows and memories of far-off lands, playing the songs of other languages to the Heidrun Plains and over the hills to Ilmarinen, where the white sorcerer Benedict lived; where she had been called to.
Elaine felt her feet crunching in the gravel on the carefully manicured path stretching across Benedict’s land. Her mind couldn’t help but wander through the those proud oak doors to the scenes taking place inside.
It was still now, but the stench of illness was lingering in the corridors and the rooms, and as she followed it, she found her way to the bedroom on the third floor. Elaine could hear the soul weeping inside, infecting the house with her sorrow and pain, driving Benedict into the Library, his only safe haven from his love’s poison.
But now he was standing at the entrance to Ilmarinen, hope daring to show itself on his face. Benedict watched his visitor come closer and started to pray. Pray for Nimue’s health. And for Elaine to help them.
“Hello, child.” Elaine smiled at Benedict’s worried face, “I am the Seer Elaine.”
“Welcome ma’am.” Benedict tried to smile, to act the gracious host, “It is good to see you finally here. I hope your journey was pleasant.” But his smile couldn’t fool Elaine. She saw the echoes of worry in his face. The shadows of despair darkened his eyes.
She looked at him kindly, “My journey was rather peaceful, and your home is beautiful.” Benedict’s brow creased, and a wave of confusion wave over Elaine, “Is there something wrong?”
Benedict shook his head, “Nothing of importance really, now that you are safe. But these Plains do not always bear the peace that you see now.”
Elaine looked at Benedict as his mind strayed away from the present and to a memory troublesome for him. It only took a second for Elaine to convince herself that prying on his memories had less cons than pros, and as she touched his shoulder an image of something black blotted against the sky entered her mind. It flew closer, and Elaine could see a dragon open his mouth and release a jet of fire that scorched the Plains with a murderous ferocity.
Elaine started as she came back to the present, “Who, may I ask, would want to ruin the peace over these Plains?” The vision faded with the dragon staring her down with amber eyes as smoke engulfed his body.
“The abomination,” Benedict’s eyes were glazed, focusing on something invisible even to Elaine. “Haydn. He occupies the Ruins of Eindride.” Benedict shook his head and smiled again at Elaine, “Shall we go inside?” Elaine didn’t respond to Benedict’s request at first, but after a pause moved past Benedict to step through the door.
The hallway was perfectly clean, and so were all of the other corridors in the house. There was no speck that was visible, no ornament out of place, and the portrait of Nimue in Benedict’s library practically shone. Of course, this is understandable, for it is truly considered a gift from Heaven to gain the love of a phoenix. And Nimue in particular was truly beautiful; her portrait seemed to watch you with dark eyes brimming with power, set in feathers brighter than rubies that trailed down her neck and across her powerful wings, to the elegant plumage that would put a peacock’s fan to shame.
But Elaine didn’t see this until after she met Nimue in person, and where another would be overcome with awe and wonder, Elaine felt anguish, despair, and even shame at what Nimue had fallen to.
“So you think you can help her?” Benedict led Elaine up the stairs, looking behind him to watch her reaction.
“I will try.” Elaine nodded, “But I need to see the extent of her condition first.” They walked in silence, but Elaine realised that they were close when the atmosphere took on a sudden chill. Benedict kept walking normally, but she watched his shoulders tense, preparing himself for whatever lay on the other side of that door.
He reached the door, but seemed frozen in his position, unable to open the door to let Elaine in. A pang of pain for Benedict shot through her heart but she had to concentrate on Nimue; and so she walked around Benedict, seemingly unaware of her, and opened the door.
She looked inside and gasped, “Who are you?”
The man cradling the frail bird looked up, and Elaine froze, for his eyes that fired knives of rage were glowing amber: the same colour as that dragon. Elaine was pushed forward and she turned around; Benedict stared at the intruder with shock that slowly turned to anger, “Haydn.”
Elaine turned to look at the dragon named Haydn as he stood up, his human form draped in black as he stared Benedict down, “She called for me, Benedict. She wanted me to be with her.”
Benedict shook his head in anger, “Get out!” He raised a finger and pointed it at Haydn’s chest, “You shall leave this place now and never enter again.” Elaine couldn’t stop Benedict from firing white lightning at Haydn, but Haydn rose his hand and deflected it like the lightning was no more than a piece of straw. Haydn’s eyes glowed red and black smoke emanated from his body, swirling around him, smothering him, until he vanished into nothing.
Benedict ran straight to the bed and gathered up the fragile form of Nimue, and Elaine managed to look at her properly. The originally radiant feathers were dull and moulting; the bright and powerful eyes were half-closed and were staring at something non-existent.
Elaine stepped towards the bed and touched her soft head gently, needing to see what Nimue could see. And just like that, she was flying within a memory, or a dream, circling the Plains far below, with a black dragon for company, his amber eyes shining with an emotion that could have been mistaken for joy.
Elaine closed her eyes and she quickly stepped away again, “Benedict. We need to talk.”
Benedict looked at her, then back at Nimue, who seemed to be asleep. He kissed her head gently, and laid her in the warm and comfortable sheets before pushing away from the bed and facing Elaine, “What is it?”
Elaine bowed her head, “I’m sorry.”
Benedict frowned for a second, but realisation came quickly and he started to shake his head, turning to the bed and stepping towards Nimue in what could only be described as desperation. But he only took one step, and Nimue let out her final breath, and the fire that was trapped inside her heart was finally released and engulfed her.
The fire was orange and red and yellow, flickering silently while Benedict and Elaine could do nothing else but watch. Benedict was silent. But outside, Elaine could hear someone crying uncontrollably.
She turned to the window as Haydn let out an almighty roar. The trees bent with the force, the grass with fear, the wind was blasted away to leave the air dry and still, even the ground trembled.
And on the roar that echoed through the Heidrun Plains, from Ilmarinen to the Ruins of Eindride, Elaine heard, no, felt the choking tension of black magic seeping through the cracks of Ilmarinen to curse the people inside, even the newborn who was crawling out of her mother’s ashes, crying as if she could feel that same curse.
Elaine was assigned to nurse the hatchling, and she was christened Amala. The future years were happy, even Benedict embraced the newfound peace in the house. And, even though Amala giggled at Elaine’s games, and shone the most glorious golden colour that could light a room on its own, Elaine couldn’t help but dread the day that Haydn’s curse hit her and tore her life apart. Her only salvation in the future would be when Haydn died.