Aegeo coughed weakly, seeming to swim back up to consciousness. He breathed around his wounds, shallow gasps and wheezes. The fire licking the corners of the ragged hole in his torso had faded to flickers and fitful sparks. Malena was leaning over him, smoothing the cold sweat from his forehead as Vhalo looked to her and shook his head.
“Spit on that scarred bitch,” Aegeo gasped, “Ran through my Xiur-fuckin torso.” Malena murmured, no words, just sounds, and traced around the torn edges, “Gone and killed myself, didn’t I?” Aegeo groaned and tried to prop himself up on his elbows but failed, there was no strength left in him, “Sod it, guess I’ll be seeing that Vri pissant and the fuck twins sooner than I’d like.” He closed his eyes and wheezed, “Promise me you’ll make it quick, yeah? Not going to lay here and suffer like a gods damned beached fish.”
“Shut up, Aegeo,” Malena answered him curtly, then turned to Vhalo, “What about if we soaked the bandages in sea water? That would offset the burning, wouldn’t it?”
“Uncharted waters,” Vhalo shrugged, hard to tell if he was making a joke, “Aegeo overstepped badly enough to make his blood fire itself, I can’t be sure of any medical approach here.” He ran a hand through his wispy beard, considering, “On a normal man, it might invite infection, but it’s all theory and guesswork with a body like Aegeo’s.”
“Damn it.” She held a hand out over the fitful flames still spitting from the wound, “If Thomas was awake, maybe we could-“
Every face save Cassion’s turned to where the rotund mage lay quietly on the deck. Thomas had opened his eyes, staring quietly up at the walls of water curled around the ship. No one was sure how long he’d been awake, but the professor still hadn’t moved.
“Thomas…” Malena trailed off and Aeodan almost rose sharply to step out to him, the motion stirred Mara fitfully and she started turning red, balling tiny fists impotently and waving them sideways. Aeodan settled and rocked her, but his gaze never left Thomas.
Thomas Theodore Terrance sat up, groaning a little under the weight of his exhaustion and injuries, laboriously standing on the deck. Almost all at once, Aegeo’s internal flames soared up through his wound and the mage coughed violently, Thomas held out a hand almost absently and the flames coiled back into the wound, multiplied, multiplied again and settled in a seething almost liquid of light. Aegeo breathed deep for perhaps the first time since he’d been wounded. “Bind the wounds,” The mage said simply, and Vhalo complied without question. Malena stood, stepping over Aegeo and past Edalene and Aeodan. She hovered there, unsure of what to do, before taking another step toward him. Her arms moved out, as if to embrace and neither of the twins could miss the ocean of longing and so many other things in her eyes. But Thomas held up a hand, stopping her short. “I’m not ready,” He said, but gently, his voice worn, “A few more bits, please. I need to process.”
“Awake At Last, Terrance?” Cassion leaned back from where he perched on the prow and grinned wide enough to show all his gleaming teeth, wolf-like, savage, “You Missed Quite The Adventure.”
“Cassion.” Thomas walked past Malena, the twins, Vhalo and Aegeo, striding right up to Cassion. The god loomed over the mage, but Thomas did not shrink beneath the stare. In a moment he had balled up a fist and reached up, delivering a solid punch to Cassion’s jaw. The god’s head snapped backward and he took one step toward the edge of the boat, as though he might topple, but caught himself. Turning his head down toward Thomas, Cassion grinned perhaps even fiercer, his voice a low thunder. “Will It Be You, Old Friend? Will You Strike Me Down?” They held their gaze for what seemed like a small eternity before Thomas settled back on his feet and glowered.
“I’m not giving you what you want, Daevus,” He emphasized the name, “I prayed you would stay your DAMN hand this time, but you didn’t find it in that heart you claim to have to listen, did you?”
“I Always Listen,” Cassion answered, raising an eyebrow, “But You Were Outvoted, Old Friend.” Cassion pointed behind Thomas, counting out the assembled one by one silently, his finger lingering on them for only a moment before it passed to the next, “Would You Fault Me For Enabling Such Stories, Such Tales? Blame Me, Mage, Draw Your Weapon And Slay Me, But Do Not Deny Me What I Am.” The god almost seemed to grow, towering over Terrance like a grey-black stormfront, spitting fury. “Dictate To Me My Role Again, Boy, And I Shall Test If You Are The One Myself.”
Thomas took a hesitant step backward, instinctive, but Cassion grinned and the spell was broken. He turned back to look out over the sea all around them. “It Would Take Too Long To Tell,” Cassion said without looking back, “I Have Placed It In Your Mind. Never Be So Quick To Set Down Your Wanderlust, Scholar.” A laugh, deep and booming, moving through all the assembled as a wave of energy, “We Have More Tales To Tell Yet.”
“My answer is still no,” Thomas said after a beat, sighing, “Choose another Champion, I don’t have what it takes to be you.”
“Others Have Said The Same.” Came the quiet answer, but the god did not turn, keeping his eyes forward toward the distant end of the tunnel.
Thomas did not respond, turning back to the others and kneeling down next to Aegeo. The wide-shouldered mage was breathing much easier now and Vhalo had bound his various wounds. The tormented flames in his eyes had died down to embers, but they still smoldered in his gaze. Brilliant glowing cracks in his skin had closed slightly, but they still lined his face like ashy charcoal drawn from his eyes down to his neck, spanning over his right shoulder and down his arm. “Misstepped,” Aegeo muttered, “But don’t expect an apology. Damn Audrae-pegged Inquistor set some sort of trap with Alchemy. Near killed me to hold it back.” An unsure, small smile flitted its away across his brutish face, “Worth it, Guide, every bit. Glad to see you up.”
Terrance was nodding as he slid his hand across the lines, lifting it back up and then clenching his fist. Aegeo grunted, flames suddenly alive in the glowing lines, his eyes forcing themselves into gouts of flame once more. “You’ve betrayed your fellow Seeker, Aegeo,” Thomas said softly, “You used Nolan like some necromancer’s thrall. You gave him back to Syroa and now you live while he suffers, perhaps already dead. Have you any possible defense?” Aegeo growled beneath Terrance’s magic, his body bucking and tensing as the fire raged within him. A single tear glittered in the edge of Thomas’ blackened eye, his cheek twitching with the force of how hard he was clenching his jaw. Aegeo reached up to grab Thomas’ outstretched hand, but Vhalo snatched it back with unexpected speed and strength, pinning it to the deck. The other Defier screamed, a barking, sharp thing and Tommy started to cry.
He held it for a few trills and then relaxed, the light dying down in Aegeo’s eyes as he fell back gasping on the deck. “No,” Thomas answered for him, “There is no possible excuse. You’ll answer to the Celestial Conclave in Quacia, let the council decide what to do with you.” Turning to Vhalo, Thomas nodded and the older mage released Aegeo. “You’ll accompany him and make our report. I’ll return to the Emean enclave with Malena to make mine. Rynmere is no longer safe for the Seekers, but the Coven will surely use the chaos to their advantage. We were unable to make contact with the Seers so we’ll have to rely on their faith in Rynalism to remain insulated from Ellasin’s temptations…at least for now.”
“Of course, Thomas,” Vhalo bowed his head respectfully, “Are you releasing us from the cell?”
“Hardly a cell left, really.” He put a gentle hand on Aegeo’s shoulder and stood, running a hand through his tangled, curly hair, “We cannot complete our mission at present and we’re outed as mages. I didn’t expect the Sacrasav to get involved, but if they’re looking to consolidate their faction on Rynmere, we may need to write it off entirely.”
“You believe they’ll succeed?”
“If your rescue was any indication of how sorcerers will take to being sniffed out, I think so, yes. Fear is their stock and trade.” Vhalo sighed and massaged one weathered hand, carefully popping each knuckle.
“Don’t be too hard on us, Warlock,” the old man said, hesitant but firm, “We might have escaped when we had the chance, Malena tried but…” He shrugged, “Aegeo is a difficult man to argue with, especially when he had Nolan and Ninacky on his side.”
“Ninacky…” Thomas drooped, his shoulders falling, “We’ll need to make a report of her passing as well. I’ll see that she’s named a Guide in the Accords.”
“Accolades for the dead,” Vhalo sighed, starting another wrap of bandages over Aegeo, “It won’t absolve us.”
“No, old friend, it never does.”
Malena had not moved from where she stood, eyes downcast and hidden behind a blond curtain of bedraggled hair. Thomas did not circle around to face her, simply leaned forward, nestling his forehead on her shoulder and sighing into the robe. “Ah, my Malena, my brave hawk, my flower, can you forgive me?”
Malena did not move her head, but Edalene marked the track of glistening tears that slipped down her face, through the maze of golden hair, to collect on her chin. “Thomas…I…” her voice hitched and she fell silent, swallowing hard to regain her composure. When she spoke again her voice trembled, but held firm, “We did what we had to, Thomas. The Seekers cannot afford to lose you, the cell could not afford to lose you, I…” She trailed off, clearing her throat, “I had to make a choice.”
“I could not fault you your heroism,” Thomas murmured quietly, “But I cannot forgive myself for inadvertently putting your children in danger. Unforgiveable. Inexcusable. Unthinkable.”
“My children?” Malena chuckled once, soft, her voice like a small bell, “Thomas, my children are stronger than you’d know. I would never put them in danger.”
“Of course not, my treasure, my rose, my faithful-“
“Please.” Malena whirled on him, hair thrown in cascades and looked down on the smaller man, her heart in her eyes and a twinkling trail of drying sorrow on her cheeks, “For just now, no more theatrics, no more words, just...” She swayed, the throes of passion warring with the cataclysm of emotions inside her. She fell upon him, her arms out and around him and her head buried into his chest, “Hold me, you godsdamn fool.”
Thomas obliged without a single syllable.
“Abigail Avery.” Each word he spoke was punctuated with a low, moaning sob. “Sh-She was a baker. Th-th-three streets down, every morn, the sweetest sugarbuns you’ve ever…ever…” Manson Avery broke down again, sobbing ugly, loud cries into his cupped hands. Even under the bandages, the bruises had begun to spread to darken his blotchy red face. The young man was only sixteen Arcs, shaking with emotion. It had taken almost a break to convince him to stop clutching the blasted body of his mother. Abigail was unrecognizable in the face of the blast that had claimed her life, fully three quarters of her face was nothing more than blackened flesh and crushed bone.
Caius flexed his ink-stained fingers and tried to reach into himself for empathy. The last several breaks had been numbing. Above their heads, the Skyriders swooped and banked, looking for any signs of the escaped mages. The pyre still smoked, but most of it had been reduced to ash and rubble. Rynalism monks, grey-cloaked with the colored Andaris beads were already among the dead, cataloging them with meticulous accuracy before lifting them gently into the backs of funerary wagons. Laborers with buckets of sea water, were washing away the blood and the viscera left behind. A full 17 Order of the Mantis recruits had died in the resulting conflict. Second Swords, who units obliterated by the power of the mages. The remainder were stretched thin, speaking with the witnesses that remained.
Caius craned his neck to see Kayled knelt down beside a young woman, holding her against the titanic sobs that wracked her small body. Miriam Olaffy, he recognized her from when she’d barely hiccupped her name to a guard, she had lost her ten arc daughter, Tris, in the same attack that had claimed Manson’s mother. He didn’t envy the Lord Inquisitor, who had chosen to take the most bereaved personally. Inside, there was only numbness, rage, and exhaustion. All Caius wanted to do was unmake the day, step backwards to when he had been roused from his slumber and told Allan to sod off.
Allan, who was also dead.
Caius turned to look where he knew the young archer had fallen, still far enough away from where the priests had started to remain untouched. It had taken them some time to free Elizabet from her shackles of cobblestone and she was being treated by healers now. He could see Allan’s figure, still, and turned back to Manson glumly. No matter where he looked, only death would stare back.
“Thank you,” Caius prompted quietly, “And you saw who did it?”
“Y-Yes,” he tried to compose himself, lifting a grief-lined face from both hands, staring up at him, “I’m S-s-s-sorry my Lord, I-“
“Don’t apologize.” Caius said it automatically, feeling his gut twist. He didn’t want to be apologized to because this man had lost his mother in such a gruesome way. He couldn’t forgive that. He couldn’t fix it. “Just…please.”
Manson nodded, “It was a girl, my Lord, a girl with dark hair. Thin.”
“This woman?” Caius held up a sketch Ellyson had drawn of Edalene…Ellyson who had passed of her wounds, inflicted by the bear, just a two breaks ago.
No tears. Rage, maybe, but there were no more tears.
“Yes.” Manson nodded, “She threw something, my ma, she saw it too and she…and she…” He collapsed again into helpless heaving sobs and Caius gingerly reached out to lay a hand on his shoulder. He wasn’t equipped to deal with this, not in any way. It was almost as though he were outside himself, watching the chaos whirl around him and a stiff puppet of himself talk to the people in the aftermath. Gods, give him strength to feel what they feel, to not be overwhelmed by it all.
Like it or not, this was his world now. This ruin? This devastation? He hadn’t laid the plans but he certainly followed through with them. He was just as culpable as Kayled.
Warily he noted a procession of armor-clad Moseke Knights making their way through the chaos. The dead from Aegeo’s last fireblast had been removed some time ago, but he recognized at least one Knight among them as having been on hand when the dead had fallen. She had taken off her helmet and held it under a crook in her arm. He watched as they waited patiently for Kayled to finish with the young woman before approaching him. There was a brief, terse conversation and Kayled nodded, bowing his head. The woman cast another look around the square, scowled, and replaced the helmet on her head.
“Sh-She was innocent!” Manson moaned into his hands, “She was to be there on my sons Nameday, two trials, TWO TRIALS!” Caius was a prison around himself. Kayled strode straight toward him. Caius almost welcomed the interruption, standing up to meet him rather than remain here to helplessly watch this man fall to pieces. The Lord Inquistor’s face was grim, and one of his arms was tied up in a sling. The handle of his broken sword still protruded from his scabbard, suggesting that it might have been a keepsake rather than some requisitioned weapon. The snake-thin man was tired, and that exhaustion show on his face and the slow way he limped toward Caius. If there was doubt in him, Caius could not see it anymore. Instead the Inquisitor only looked sorrowful, looking out at a trap he had set for a prey too much for his preparations.
Ruin, thy name is Kayled Wine, Caius found himself inadvertently thinking.
“My Lord Gawyne,” Kayled began, starting to sweep into a bow.
“Sod off.” Caius growled, “No more of that. No bowing and scraping, no more of these pointless niceties. I’m covered in innocent blood, Kayled. Let’s dispense with formality.”
Wine eyed him warily and maybe with…respect? It might have been there, a grudging glimmer of it in his dark, weary eyes. “Very well,” Kayled agreed, “The King has summoned the leader of the Order of the Mantis to answer for what occurred here today.”
“What will you tell him?”
“What will we tell him,” Kayled corrected, “You are my Lord Arbiter.” Caius could feel his stomach trying to turn in on itself, over and over. He had never been called before the King before and now it would have to be to explain all this…madness. “It is unavoidable, I am afraid. I was hoping we could walk and talk on our way to the Castle.”
Another Purifier had taken Caius’ place and the printer nodded slowly.
“Splendid,” He did not say it in a way that suggested he felt the word he used, “I’ll need to collect my thoughts. Could you…” he trailed off, stepping carefully over a long puddle of coagulating blood, lingering a moment before continuing, “Could you give me your accounting of what occurred? I do not need the exact sequence, but your thoughts. Soon enough we will have to repeat the same to Our Majesty and the future of our organization hinges on presentation.” Kayled’s dark eyes bore into Caius, as though might burrow there and spread their own version of events, “As my Lord Arbiter,” Kayled began carefully as the two of them turned toward the Castle, “What would you say to him?”
“Thank you, Aeodan,” Malena knelt down to take the two infants, both of them squirming in their swaddling and gnashing their toothless gums together, “They’re hungry.” She shrugged, but didn’t apologize, taking a seat toward the back of the boat and turning away from him so she could privately offer her children their nourishment. Embarrassed, Aeodan turned his back on her, blushing. The tears were drying now, small dirty tracks down his face, dry riverbeds of grief. He felt spent, but was still somehow standing, moving, alive. Each breath felt like he had cheated death, a little, walking from that terror intact.
Edalene played with her cat and the warmth of their reunion he could feel through their link. It warmed him, even a little, and brought a small measure of order to his frenzied thoughts. After Malena had let go, Thomas had stood on the other side of the skiff, staring into the water that swirled around them. Aegeo was blessedly asleep now, his huge chest rising and falling fitfully, but (as Vhalo had assured him twice) in no danger of suddenly succumbing to his wounds. Already the old man had approached him to remind Aeodan that when he was ready, Vhalo would return him to his old body. Strangely, Aeodan was starting to get used to the one he had. This body had seen so much more, in some ways, than his other ever did. It almost seemed distant to him, another life, another time. All of it was different now.
“Aeodan, Edalene.” Aeodan turned to see Thomas, finally turning away from his quiet reflection and waving them with him belowdeck. With some effort, the Professor slid down into the belly of the skiff, setting his back against the wall and waiting for the twins to join him.
Edalene had been sorting through the bag as her cat bit and nibbled at a piece of strike she had pulled free of her clothes for the creature. Somehow, it didn’t seem phased at the current turn of events at all, but stayed well away from the edge of the boat. Arturius lay with its head resting on both paws, enfolded around the Shirvain and watching the cat with quiet interest. Edalene had already pulled out books, old worn journals, Aeodan’s endless words he had written from the safety of his room. Some of her papers were here too, the things she’d written for university, even the credentialing paperwork for her classes. It seemed strange to her that Cassion would have known to pick all these up, but then and again, he was a god. Looking at him, Edalene wasn’t sure he really was one in some ways. He was so different from Ralaith, from Vri, from the Twins. All the gods she had seen and interacted with before had held themselves so differently. Revelation struck her all at once and she stared at the gods back, momentarily ceasing her exploration of the sack. She realized why he was different now, watching him, thinking of how he had spoken with Thomas. Cassion acted like a person, not a god. It wasn’t perfect, his cadence was off, his voice was all wrong, and he didn’t seem to present his emotions or the exact ‘feel’ of a man just right…but so much of his demeanor actually seemed to be a desperate pantomime of the humans around him.
Why? Why would he be so fascinated with that farce?
When Thomas spoke, she swung her head to listen, nodding at Aeodan and picking up Liss. The small creature purred, curling up in her arms almost immediately and the warmth that rolled out from its tiny body filled her with a measure of peace. Thomas was alive. Through great adversity, somehow, they had come out of this with Thomas intact, against all odds. Still…she hadn’t spoken to Thomas yet, neither she nor Aeodan had. Since waking, he hadn’t spoken to them till now and part of her was troubled as she followed Aeodan into the belly of the boat.
Down here was the room for a sailor, Narav’s rom. The wall was tacked with a map of Idalos, old and sea-worn, with small ink x’s drawn over the names of a few cities. All the places he had looked, she realized. Her eyes found a small stack of leather-bound books pushed against the bedding and she fished one up, opening the cover.
Journal of Narav, it read, Book 4
“I dedicate this part of my journey to Edalene,” it was written in his curving, Ne’haer script, the same way he had penned his letters, “She of crossroads and crisp pages. Edalene wrote storytelling into me, or maybe she just enhanced what was already there. We knew each other in the space of Cycles, whenever my father would visit Rynmere, and I often long for the easy days of reading on rooftops or in the boughs of trees. I brought darkness into her life, like so many others, and I cannot be sure if I’ll ever expunge it. In her honor, I dedicate this portion of my tale to her and the stories she would tell me. If there are kind gods, she will find happier worlds than this. If there are forgiving ones, maybe I will as well.” –Narav
She shut it, placing it on her lap, turmoil finding its way back into her heart. It slipped away as Aeodan put his arm around her shoulder, pulling her close. In the dark beneath the deck, Thomas was strange shapes in shadow. The twins could feel his eyes upon them as he took careful breaths. Silence seemed to wear on before he finally spoke.
“I am sorry.” He started.
“N-“ Aeodan was already trying to dismiss it when Thomas held out a hand, gentle but insistent, and Aeodan swallowed his retort.
“Let me finish, please. Give an old man his ramble, yes?” Edalene took Aeodan’s hand and squeezed it comfortingly, the young man sighing and nodding in the dark. “I am sorry,” Thomas began again, “My sparrows, my adventurers, my students. I had no intention to draw you into such dangerous events. After the Temple, my magic…well…” sighing, he put both hands together, “The elements betrayed me for a long time, I’m afraid, which led to my accusation as a mage. Perhaps I might have avoided this, applied for a portal to Viden or perhaps Scalvoris, but I vainly assumed I could find a way to control it and to continue my work.” Above them, the boat rocked and Cassion laughed, thundering. “I had hoped it would not come to this, that I might die without fight and deny those fearmongers their reason…all of these choices I made arrogantly, without consulting, without a thought to what it would mean for those I left behind. I am sorry for many things in my life, Aeodan, Edalene, a list you would tremble to read.” Thomas chuckled and it was the first Aeodan and Edalane had heard it since those many Cycles ago. “When you live a life like man, children, you will find regrets will follow you from journey to journey. We try to learn lessons as best we can, but sometimes…ah, but sometimes we are doomed to repeat our paths, our forever dance.”
Edalene lay a head against Aeodans. Yes, sometimes that was true. As cold as she made herself on the inside, that passionate, instinctive, violent flame whenever Aeodan was in trouble would continue to burn through her. Never. She would never let Aeodan down. She would never let him go again.
“Our paths are bound now, I’m afraid. You cannot return home to Rynmere, nor do you have another place to go. I am responsible for you now.”
“With due respect, Professor,” Edalene piped up, “We’re adults. We’re responsible for eachother.”
Thomas laughed and Aeodan couldn’t keep himself from a smile, it was such a comforting sound, “Ah, my flower, so defiant, so wise…ah, you are a young spitfire Edalene and you’ll keep your brother on his toes for many an Arc more, I’d wager.” Thomas sighed and leaned back against the wall. They could hear his smile fade, smoke escaping from a fire. “I will find resources for you both, letters of recommendation from me should secure anything you need in Scalvoris or Viden. I’m bound to make my report on these events in Ne’hear, but we may meet again afterwards…as soon as I realign my place in the world.” Scooting forward, the mage put out his hands and took both the twins own. His grip was so hot, almost uncomfortable, but his grip was strong. “I wish you had not been dragged into this, but I am so proud of your bravery. You stood against tyranny, terror, hatred and fought for what you believed in. If I had children I would hope they…” he trailed off a bit, unexpectedly sad in that moment, “I would hope they might be just like the two of you.”
Aeodan and Edalene’s heart swelled, how could they tell him that they already considered him their father…not by blood but by deed, by choice?
“So much has happened,” Thomas said quietly, “Please, I want you to tell me your thoughts. If our journey has not ended than the truth at the monolith holds true, our pact holds true. Be honest and speak your truths.” They could hear the earnestness in his voice, the swell of emotion there, “Please.”
Darkness, swallowing, consuming.
Edalene’s face, contorted in a hundred different emotions. It spun away into shadow, like everything else.
Allan lay somewhere between the living and the dead. His body was empty, a smoking ruin on the cold stone and his soul? Who knew where his soul was. Part of him was terrified that this darkness was all there was, just an empty void where he floated from place to place. Perhaps all the souls were down here, drifting like him, and if he swam far enough or fast enough he might find Godryn in all this shadow…
No. Not Godryn, not the shell that sorrow had carved him into, but the real Godryn, the Knight that had captured the love of his mother. Maybe they were both down here and he could find them. Together, perhaps, he could enter into the Eternal Kingdom happy. Perhaps he had never earned the right to hold a sword as his father did, but the Fates may still look kindly upon him, could they not? He had slain an enemy of the Kingdom, surely. He did not see her fall, but the arrow had flown true and lodged in her neck.
There was guilt there, perhaps he should have tried to aim at someone else. The instinct had been automatic. Gods. Gods. Ziell help him, he had tried. Edalene standing beneath him. Edalene hurling exploding magic into innocent faces. Edalene curled up in the sun, a book open on her lap. Edalene covered in blood charging toward the center of the pyre. Edalene, honeysuckle sweet, the faint aroma of daffodils, how she always kissed him thrice when she had kissed him. Once was the beginning, the intro to all stories, twice was the middle and the whole point, and third to end it, wrap it up with a soft signature. Edalene standing side by side with murderous mages. Edalene, her face a cracked painting of tears when she told him goodbye.
Maybe he could be forgiven his leniency, just for a moment. Just for her. Surely the Fates had loved before, surely the gods had loved. He loved her and no other woman since had filled the silence she had left behind.
You are my author, he should have told her, you write the story of my joy.
So many unsaid things. So…perhaps yes, perhaps he would be ok dying for her. Perhaps he would be forgiven for wanting her to escape…and if she didn’t?
Perhaps he could find her down here as well, together they could walk into the Eternal Kingdom.
“Poor Boy, Fallen, Smote, Love Has Made Thee Soft.”
“Ask Me Not My Name, You Will Know Me By My Light.”
There was a light in the darkness, a red baleful glow, burning crimson that washed over him, that was sound in the empty of this place. All the light emanated from a single point, a bobbing prism. No. It was being held by an old iron ring. Not just a light. Not just a prism.
“Speak Not My Name. My Cousin Comes For Thee And We Must Speak Quickly.”
Oh. Well, that makes sense. Refuse Vri and the Eternal Kingdom shall ope-
“Enough Of Your Prayer. Thy Arrow Was The Only Weapon That Felled A Mage This Day. The Sparked Ones Escaped Thy Justice.”
Anger. Sudden, flaring but-….Edalene, at least she…
“In The Company Of Unwitting Wolves, Swayed To Ruin And The Path Of The Spark.”
No. She would never. Edalene was intelligent, she was free-willed, she would never take such-
“Silence, Boy. Near Death Makes Strange Bedfellows Of Intellects. The Seekers Continue And Their Quest Is Treason To All Idalos. They Would Bring Darkness And War To Even The Heavens.”
“They Seek, Foolishly, To Revive A God Long Left Buried. Tragedy Moves Them But They Do Not Consider The Consequences Of Meddling.”
So what…what would you ask of me?
“I Say, Perhaps, Thy Journey In Flesh Has Not Ended. I Say, Child, Thou Shalt Rise And Embrace Thy Duty. I Shall Outfit Thee With The Weapons To Cut At The Heart Of Magic, And I Shall Lead Thee And Others To Secrets Long Forgotten, To Cut The Spark Of Magic From The Soul Of The Cursed. To Save Them.”
And she told him.
Is…Is that possible?
But why me? Why not Ser Wine or Lord Caius or-
“I Have Chosen Thee, For Destiny Finds Favor With Thy Journey. Thou Art Connected To Thine Beloved And By Cassion’s Own Interference, Bound To Find Her Once More.”
Edalene. To look upon her, to maybe explain the words he could not speak before…to finally-
“Doth Thee Accept?”
The lantern shook in the darkness, the light bleeding out, ruptured, and flowing out across him. Pain was distant but he could feel it on the other end of the darkness, the pain he might return to should he say yes. But…also Edalene.
“Then Rise, Allan, Son Of Godryn, Rise And Asky Thy Love This One Question Next Thee Sees Her.”
I will ask so many questions.
“But Thou Shalt Ask One Of Mine.”
Yes. Yes my Lady, what shall I ask?
“Ask Her Who Killed Thy Father.”
Mason Joyll leaned reverently over the fallen Purifier, pulling his hands up across his chest. “May the Seven welcome you, loyal guardian, into their Eternal Kingdom.” The charred and blackened armor curled away from the wound that spread across the dead mans chest, a direct hit from one of those infernal magical weapons. Mason turned away from the corpse to wave over the funerary wagon. By the armor and the weapon, the man was a bowman. Surely one of the others would be able to identify his name. Reaching over to take up the bow, Mason turned it over in his hand. Witnesses said one of the mages was felled by an arrow, perhaps this had been the bow to do it. Nodding he turned to place it on the chest of the corpse but fell back, a scream curdling in his throat.
The dead man was staring up at him, blue eyes sharp and narrowed in pain. Mason tried to scramble away backward, but the Purifier’s hand shot out to clasp onto his leg, vice-tight, blackened. Before Mason’s terrified eyes he saw flesh re-knit itself across his body, leaving hideous scars where his flesh had twisted and burned. The man hissed under the pain of the revival and finally released Mason, panting and curling around himself. Mason immediately drew his ceremonial mace, blessed by the oils of the Seven and raised it high. “Magic!” He hissed, bringing it down swiftly.
The blonde man caught the mace handle inches from his own head and pushed the monk away from him, dragging himself to his hands and knees.
“No!” He snarled, caught his breath and spoke again, “No. No foul sorcery. The Lantern. I saw a Lantern. The Lady of the Lantern brought me back.”
“Fam-“ Mason started to say, but could not finish the name as the man clamped a strong hand over his mouth.
“Shhh!” the man hissed at him, his eyes darting around the battlefield, a slight tinge of red beneath the bright blue, “Her black fingered cousin stalks amongst the dead. I cannot let slip she was here. I have been chosen to save our Holy Kingdom, to rid it of mages once and for all.”
Perhaps it was in how he said it, or the conviction in his eyes, but Mason relaxed his grip as the blonde released him, slowly standing and massaging where the young Purifier had grabbed him. “What…What is your name?” Mason asked.
“Allan,” the Purifier smiled fiercely, blue eyes blazing, “Allan, Son of Godryn.”