Winky spent the next several days following the elf Dobey. She figured out Dobey was a male elf, given to serve the Dark Lord because of his deformities. He was very nice, showing her where everything was, and just how the Dark Lord liked things done. She learned quickly and soon, no longer needed Dobey’s help. They days weren’t too hard, just doing chores, it was the evenings, when she had time to herself, that were the worst. Winky would lay in bed at night, thoughts of Tahlmus whirling through her mind. The memories of everything they had done together brought tears to her eyes. Knowing he was the reason she was in her current position, would cause the anger to set in, until she fell asleep. Nightmares would wake her through the night. Each nightmare was different. In some of them, her and Tahlmus would run away from the Hahren’s garden, from there they would find a new village, set up a new shop, only to have to run again. This continued until they had nowhere to run to. All the villages had been decimated, all the villagers killed. Even the wandering elves were gone, they were alone.
In other nightmares, she was being held close to Tahlmus. He would whisper to her. His eyes were always closed, face pained as he whispered. Then he pulled a dagger out hitting her with the hilt. He turned her over. That was usually where the dream stopped as she would force herself awake, seething in anger. On this particular night, she had been exhausted from the work she had done. She didn’t wake up after Tahlmus let the men take her. In the nightmare, after a man picked her up, she saw Tahlmus struggling against two men holding him, trying to get away and his lips were moving. Something silver glinted near his hands. Curious now, more than angry, Winky tried to make the dream shift so she could examine the silver. It was the same silver as her bracelets. Tahlmus was powerless. Then the men holding him hit him over the head with a large rock. He slumped to the ground.
Winky woke, sweat dripping. Her breathing rushed; questions swirling through her mind. “What was Tahlmus whispering? Why would he struggle to save me after turning me over? Why did they knock him out too?” A part of Winky wanted to scream. It didn’t make any sense. None of it did. “That’s why it’s just a dream,” she told herself. “It was just a dream,” she whispered aloud, before settling back down and falling asleep. No other dreams came.
Several more days passed. The chores continued to be piled on, and without her magic, they took a lot of work. She was completely exhausted and no dreams came. She started to question whether the nightmares had actually happened. Days started to turn to weeks. Those weeks turned into a month. In that time Winky spent a lot of time with Dobey doing chores. The more time she spent with Dobey the less time she spent thinking of Tahlmus, and the life they had built. Her anger was non-existent and so were her tears.
After three months the only memories she possessed were those of her working for the Dark Lord. On the first day of the fourth month Dobey casually asked, “Are you still angry with Tahlmus?” Winky looked at him blankly and responded with, “I don’t know a Tahlmus. How could I be mad at him?” Dobey smiled. The master would be pleased. The bracelets and magic in Winky’s daily ration of bread had worked. Her memories had been taken away. She would now be loyal to the Dark Lord, and all of his commands. “Well, I have to go do something else. Can you manage here?” Winky nodded and watched Dobey leave the room.
A couple hours later, Dobey came back, the Dark Lord following him. “My Lord,” Winky squeaked; as she tried to finish sweeping the dust up before he approached. “I’m sorry I’m not done, I…” She paused her speech as the Dark Lord raised his hand. With the same hand he motioned for her to come closer. Winky complied, kneeling before him, head bowed.
“No need to be afraid Winky,” the Dark Lord said with a wave of his hand, her bracelets disappeared. “With Dobey’s good report, I have decided it is time you became my personal servant. With your magic restored, you will see to my every need.”
Winky looked up at the Dark Lord with aww and admiration. “You are too kind,” she said leaning over kissing the Dark Lord’s shoes.
“You will be moved to the room next to mine. You will take care of my quarters, bring me all my meals and accompany me on my travels to carry and organize my things.” Winky didn’t have time to say anything before the Dark Lord continued. “Dobey, get Winky some new clothes, and show her to her new room. Once she’s settled, she can set about cleaning my room before she brings me supper.”
“Yes, my Lord,” Dobey said with a bow before taking Winky’s hand and escorting her from the room. The Dark Lord smiled. Everything was working, and more quickly than had been estimated. If things kept progressing as they had he would be able to bed Winky in a few months. From that a child would be conceived. If all went as the psychic had predicted, that child would have magic and enough elven blood that the Vampire Mermaids that occupied the waters surrounding the Tevinter Imperium could be defeated. As mermaids they could seduce whomever they willed, but because of the vampire curse, they could not harm elves, no matter if it was in self-defense or straight attack. They couldn’t harm an elf.
He was told Winky was the only female elf it would work with. He had been led to believe it was because of her relations with a male elf by the name of Tahlmus. Being around him made Winky’s magic stronger, made her understand love, so she would actually be able to conceive a child. The only thing that bothered him, was the male elf Tahlmus. His orders had been to dispose of the male elf to ensure no interference, but when the group had returned with Winky they had no recollection of Tahlmus. They claimed they had found Winky in a garden unconscious. Even with his magic, he could not detect the male elf. He would just have to keep working on Winky and hope the male elf was dead.
Tahlmus could feel himself waking up, though he couldn’t remember falling asleep. Whatever he was lying on was so comfy he didn’t want to open his eyes. He heard some giggling nearby. “Winky,” he said just above a whisper. “Winky is that you?” he asked slowly opening his eyes and turning his head toward the giggling. His eyes opened quickly as he realized he was looking at multiple women; not one of them was Winky. “Where…” he started as he tried to move. It didn’t work as he felt like he’d been run over by a herd of stampeding Hala. The pain caused him to close his eyes, as he did so the memories came back; what he did to Winky, the moose riding ghost pirate, and the mermaids. The mermaids with legs and fangs. He tried even harder to move, remembering their song, but to no avail. His body just wasn’t having it.
“Be calm,” a voice as beautiful as the heavens stated. “You are not in danger here.” Tahlmus opened his eyes, looking towards the voice. A single woman walked forward from the group. He saw Fleur and Coral smile and wave at him, before he refocused on the one walking towards him. “I don’t… I don’t understand,” he stuttered through his sentence. “Those two were mermaids… then they could walk… Davey said there were Sirens,” Tahlmus started babbling from fear as the woman got closer. She sat next to him and smiled.
“There will be plenty of time for those answers. For now, I’m Celestial, I am the leader of the Sirens, and you are?”
“I’m… I’m Tahlmus,” he said blushing as Celestial took hold of his hand. As she did, the pain left his body. He could move. “How…” his words trailed off as he sat up looking around. He had been lying on a bed of fine white sand, while the floor was of fine yellow sand, and the ceiling was the ocean itself. He then looked at the group of women, who were supposedly mermaids. They all had legs, however instead of the normal mermaid tail.
“Nicely met Tahlmus, and while I would love to sit and chat, it will be dawn soon, and we will have to leave for the waters. Until then Fleur, Coral, and Atargatis will show you around so that you can preoccupy yourself until nightfall.” Tahlmus opened his mouth to ask questions, but Celestial had already left his side. Fleur, Coral and one he didn’t recognize were already by the bed of sand. As he looked at them, his eyes lingered over Coral. Something about her reminded him of Winky. She was the one that held her hand out to him, which he took without hesitation.
The group set off, showing him around. Fleur held onto his left arm, while Coral snuggled his right. The one he could only assume to be Atargatis was in the lead showing and explaining everything. The tour finished with what Atargatis called the kitchen. There was nothing in it but a table and chairs. Tahlmus opened his mouth to ask a question, but the women were already back outside on the sand. Coral and Fleur both waved at him before reaching up towards the water. An unseen force lifted them up towards the water and as they reached it, their legs turned back to a mermaid tail, and they were gone. Ataragis looked back at him. “Celestial wishes you to join her in the kitchen once the sun has set.” She started to lift her hand towards the ocean above. “Don’t be late,” she said as her arm completed extending, and she joined the other two in the water. Tahlmus watched her swim off.
Not knowing what to do, Tahlmus went back to the kitchen table, sitting down on the chair facing the entryway. Every so often he would use his magic to check on Winky. Every time he did, he saw her with the shabby elf who had been feeding her bread. It angered him to see how the elf looked at her, and how close he got to her. After opening his eyes from checking in on Winky for the tenth time, he saw Celestial sitting in a chair opposite him. It surprised him so much he fell out of his chair. “No one but Winky has ever snuck up on me,” he thought. “What’s going on?”
“Let’s get started then,” Celestial started as Tahlmus got back into his chair. “Make us some food.”
Tahlmus stared at her blankly. “There’s no…” he started looking around the empty space.
“You are a mage, are you not?” Celestial questioned. Tahlmus nodded. “Then make us some food.” Tahlmus nodded again, trying to gather himself so he could focus. He gave a wave of his hand, and the table was filled with fresh deer meat, potatoes which had been mashed, and corn that had been cut off the cob. Plates and silverware also appeared. “Interesting choice,” Celestial said folding her hands on the table in front of her plate.
“It’s… a… it was Winky’s favorite dish,” Tahlmus whispered.
“The same Winky that right now is in the Dark Lord’s dungeon in the Tevinter Imperium?”
Tahlmus nodded. “I need to save her,” he said. “I already saved the villages by turning her over, now I need to save her,” Tahlmus finished as he watched Celestial turn red in the face.
“You what?” she screamed at him, her fangs showing. “How could you turn her over to him?”
Tahlmus started leaning back in the chair as Celestial started coming across the table. Just as her hand reached out for him, the legs on the chair broke and he fell to the floor. “I only did what the vision showed was best for everyone,” he said after the shock of hitting the floor wore off.
“Explain better,” Celestial ordered as she sat down.
Tahlmus explained how his visions started at sixteen and that Winky had helped to figure out, that the visions were more like premonitions, helping him make decisions for the best of all those involved. The day him and Winky were to be bonded he’d had a vision. He could run away with Winky, keeping her safe, which ended with elves becoming all but extinct. If he gave Winky to the Tevinter’s the elves would live on and the Dark Lord ruling over Tevinter could be defeated. Unfortunately he didn’t know how to defeat the Dark Lord, the vision hadn’t shown him that. “I have to save Winky,” he said as Celestial sat back studying him with her arms crossed. “But they have this metal that inhibits magic use. I need to know how to get around that. Davey, the ghost pirate said you could help.”
He stayed silent as Celestial studied him. He was anxious for a response. The longer the silence, the more Tahlmus started to fidget. Celestial leaned forward to speak as Davey the ghost pirate popped in with his moose. Tahlmus stared in surprise.
“Oh great leader of the Sirens, there is trouble.” Celestial motioned for Davey to continue. “The Dark one has sent his ships out to cast their special nets trying to get rid of you.”
“Of course he has,” Celestial responded, her eyes flaring. She turned to Tahlmus. “You want our help, then help us. Use your magic to stir up the waters, wreck their ships, and destroy their nets.”
Tahlmus nodded, he was prepared to do whatever was needed to get Winky back. “Where are they at?” he asked looking at Davey.
“Just left the Tevinter shoreline, and are coming this way.”
Tahlmus nodded again. “I’ll take care of it,” he said closing his eyes, focusing on the ships. He was almost ready to transport when Celestial put a hand on his shoulder causing him to look at her. With just that touch he knew what she wanted in addition to what she had already asked. Looking into Celestial’s eyes was like looking into Winky’s. He couldn’t refuse the silent request. “I will do as you wish,” he replied before closing his eyes and transporting into the hold of the lead ship. Staying focused, he was able to determine that the ships were far enough out to sea that no one would be able to help them, but not far enough that the nets would cause any harm to the Sirens.
Refocusing on what he needed to do, Tahlmus held his hands straight out, muttering the words to a spell to agitate water. As he muttered the spell, his arms started to rise up into the air, more magic being focused into the spell as he did so. By the time he was done, yelling could be heard above deck and the ship was rocking dangerously. He transported to the deck. Some men were running with nets trying to throw them overboard. Tahlmus cast a spell causing the nets to disintegrate when they touched the water. The other half of the men were hanging on to parts of the ship for dear life.
Concentrating, Tahlmus cast a spell to take all the rope on the ships and tie all the men together by their hands. Before anyone realized what had happened he transported all of them, along with himself, down to the Sirens’ abode. They all appeared in front of the structure that had the kitchen. Celestial came out when she heard the commotion. Her smile at seeing all the men from the crews was so wide Tahlmus saw her fangs. “Boats are capsizing, nets are gone, and all crew members are here for you,” Tahlmus stated.
“Have at them ladies, but be gentle,” Celestial said smiling sadistically. “Tahlmus come with me.” Tahlmus did as he was told, following Celestial back to the kitchen. You’ve proven tonight that you’re powerful enough. We will help you, but you follow our orders, do not question them, and once everything is done we get something from you. Something not currently in your possession, but that you will hold very dear.”
Tahlmus studied Celestial as she spoke. He tried reading her mind to see if there was an ulterior motive, but something blocked him from being able to. “I guess the terms and conditions don’t really matter. I need the help,” he thought to himself, standing there with his arms crossed. “Ok,” he replied. “I will agree to those terms.”
“Coral, Fleur, Laguna,” Celestial called out. Three women appeared almost instantly. The one Tahlmus could only assume to be Laguna licking something that looked like blood from her lips. He shrunk away almost instinctively. “Take him to the red room, put those special cuffs on. Work on his magic until dawn. Do not stop, no matter how much he begs you.”
“Understood,” Coral said striding forward locking eyes with Tahlmus. “Come with us, Tahlmus,” she said as Fleur and Laguna took hold of his arms. Panic entered his eyes, but he felt paralyzed as he looked into Coral’s eyes. Fleur and Laguna easily lifted him up by his forearms and elbows, which were still crossed across his chest. They carried him to the red room and put his wrists in cuffs that held him to the wall. Tahlmus was in a real panic now as they started to walk away. The cuffs were the same as the human’s bracelets. With them on he couldn’t feel his magic, it was as if he had none at all. Halfway across the room all three women stopped. They turned around looking at him.
“I have the key,” Laguna said. “Take it from me, and you’re free to go.”
“We know you have magic,” Coral stated.
“You brought all those delicious specimens to us,” Fleur said.
“So take the key,” Laguna stated again.
Tahlmus swallowed the lump in his throat that had developed in his panic. “But these bracelets, they…”
“Your magic isn’t gone,” Coral stated.
“The bracelets just complicate it,” Fleur added.
“Focus,” Laguna said. “Get the key.”
Remembering what Celestial had said, Tahlmus did as he was told. He tried to focus on his magic. As he focused on his magic, he tried to cast a spell. As he did, he could feel the metal getting hot against his wrist. Trying to ignore it, Tahlmus continued to focus but the more he tried to focus on using his magic, the hotter the metal got until he lost focus howling in pain. Turning to look at one wrist, then the other, he could smell burnt flesh. His burnt flesh.
Fleur came forward, her touch was gentle, and the skin healed itself. She then went back to Laguna, who told him to try again. Taking a deep breath he did. He tried until again he smelled burnt flesh. He grimaced in pain until Coral came up and the skin healed at her touch. They went through this routine until a few minutes before dawn, when Laguna came forward and released him. Exhausted and in a pain he wasn’t sure how he tolerated, Tahlmus collapsed on the floor. A few hours later when he opened his eyes, there was food on a plate in front of him, which he ate without thought before going back to sleep. Coral and Fleur put him back in the cuffs and Laguna tempted him with the key until dawn, just like the night before. This continued for a month. Tahlmus had gotten to the point that he didn’t collapse when they let him go, but he still had not been able to get the key.
On the second day of the second month, it was Celestial who entered, not the other three. She forced him to try longer, to push through more pain, and when she healed, she did not heal his wrists completely. Tahlmus felt relieved when dawn came, but it didn’t last long. Celestial walked up to him. “How do you ever expect to save your precious Winky with a performance like that?” she asked as she healed his wrists. Then without releasing him she started to walk off.
“Wait,” Tahlmus raised his voice; “aren’t you going…” the sound of the key hitting the floor interrupted him. Celestial waved at him, then left. Dazed and exhausted Tahlmus fell asleep still chained to the wall. His work with Celestial continued for the next two months. The only thought that kept Tahlmus going was his need to save Winky. All the burnt flesh, all the pain of being chained to the wall day in and day out would be worth it in the end because he would have her.
“Just hold on Winky. I will save you, I promise,” Tahlmus whispered as his fifth attempt to get the key since Celestial left had failed. It was two days into the fourth month since he met the vampire sirens. He had spent the last two months chained to a wall. He was going to get free, even if he burned his wrists to the bone. “Do it for Winky,” he whispered to himself. Focusing all he could into the spell, he tried to get the key. His flesh burned with intense pain, but he kept his focus until the key was in his hand. Focusing a little bit more; he was able to use the key to unlock the cuffs. His hands fell to his sides and the pain he’d been ignoring increased to a point so intense he blacked out in a heap on the floor.
What comes next? Read Tahlmus, Winky and the Vampire Mermaids: Pt. 4 to find out.