Chapter Nine

13 minutes, 21 seconds (2672 words)

“Let go,” she said, and lay a wet piece of cloth on my forehead. I knew her voice. It called to me from the past.

“I can’t,” I whispered, and a tear rolled down the side of my face. I couldn’t let go, even if I wanted to. She had become my life, and now she asks me to let go. How could she ask such a thing of me? After all the things I endured… “Kira… Not now… I can try… This time… I can do it. It will work.”

“We have reached the end,” she said softly, and I could see the sadness in her eyes. Sadness, and great, great pain. Perhaps it was my imagination, but I could also make out the ever-present courage there, as she struggled to contain her tears. Her eyes flicked to the left, then right, even now, she was just as beautiful as the first time I had seen her. Her tears vanished. All the while the man, who was asked to let go, the man lying in front of her, was crying.

Did she see my future? Did she see me lose everything I cherished? Did she see me, giving it all up? In the end, did she see my fall?

“We could always -“, I tried.

“No,” she interrupted, as if even the thought pained her. Or disgusted her. She had no intention of trying again. “We would reach the same point again, like so many times before. And then we’d have to have this conversation again. Like so many times before. And then we’d have to go our separate ways.” She wiped my face and leaned closer. “He is coming. I cannot stop him. It is my choice now. Please…” she looked at me, her gaze penetrating. “Please, John, trust me. This is our only chance. Our last chance.”

I nodded slowly. She was right, but that didn’t make it easier to confront. I took in a deep breath, tried to focus, but then I broke down in sobs. She did, too. But she had the luxury of being able to turn around and walk away. I didn’t. This was the last time I heard those sweet lips uttering my name.


“Let go,” she repeated, and I felt another tear roll down my temple. Cool fingertips brushed it away, but the sadness remained. How could I have been so cruel without knowing it? How could I have been so selfish? So… so unbelievably stupid?

“You need to rest,” she continued insistently, talking with the urgency of a mother trying to get her child to sleep and dream thrilling dreams; dream of his mother tucking him to bed, lulling him to sleep before anyone could harm him. As if dreams were safe.

She lifted the cloth and I felt like a piece of comfort had been taken away from me. I mumbled something incomprehensible, trying to tell her my need, to return the comforting coolness of the cloth to me, but she didn’t respond. Perhaps she didn’t hear me. But I could feel her. She was nervous. And she wasn’t Thea. She was… what?

“Let go,” she cooed softly, and now her words were imbued with a hint of persuasion. As if she reached out and let me unclench my mental fingers, making me realise only now that they were clenched.

My eyes were pressed shut, and what I could feel about her was seemingly in my mind. Her emotions, like pictures in a picture book were fragments of light. But she had done something… something that had made me return to darkness again. I could not feel her feelings any more.

“There,” she said gently, and I could hear her smile in her words.

I opened my eyes and looked into her face, illuminated by a narrow beam of moonlight shining through the clouds. That was my first impression of her beauty in full, and I wish it would have been the last. Poets must have felt this way, when they found their muse. My muse smiled.

“Hello, John,” she whispered softly, and at that moment, I felt like salvation was just in reach.

“It was not supposed to be like this,” I murmured. My voice was weaker than the last time I had heard it. It felt like my life was slowly seeping away. “I was supposed to come and see you as you came back to the city.”

“I know,” she said, and it wasn’t a lie. She really knew.

“How?” I asked, and realised that I knew some things about her, too. Like the fact that she was pushing herself to her limits. I remembered dreaming about it. But when?

“I could feel your need all across here and Ferula,” she said quietly, and my eyes went wide. Wherever Ferula was, it wasn’t near, and that meant… that meant Aldrin knew, too.

Her cool, dry fingertips returned to my face. She smoothed my brow and emitted a barely audible chuckle. “Do not worry. Not everyone can feel the oneness.”

“The oneness?” I asked, and felt like the solution to everything lay in the answer. It was what allowed me to know her. It was what allowed me to need her. It was what allowed her to know me so well.

“Yes. It is the force that dri-“

The oneness. It allowed me to know that Aldrin was coming.

“I should go,” she whispered, then moved to her feet in a fluid motion that made me be jealous and awestruck both at once. In moments, she had disappeared into the darkness.

A few moments later, Aldrin stepped into my line of sight. I began to shiver, from the fear, and from the fever that I knew was running through my system. It was obvious that someone had been here before. He would know.

“Hello,” he said as he neared. His voice was soft and contemplative, as if he was wondering how best to squash me. I knew that, just as I knew Kira was not destined to be mine; she was his, already.

“Hi,” I responded through dry lips. My eyes flicked from side to side nervously, wondering what he was going to do next. Kira’s fragrance lingered in the air like the last sign of doom.

“Why are you like this?” He asked, and his question caught me off-guard. I looked at him, managing to tilt my head slightly in a gesture of curiosity.

“You get better. Then you get worse. Then you’re in a fever. Then you look like you have seen a ghost. Where do you come from? Who are you?”

I smiled. Kira knew. Thea knew. Why didn’t he?

“I don’t know,” I responded a little too sharply. “I got hit by something I don’t know. Someone came and said that he’s a God, and then he hit me in the chest by lor-“

“Aldrin,” Kira called as she approached from my other side. How had she skirted around us without any of us noticing? We both looked at her.

“Hello, Kira,” Aldrin said, then stepped forward to hold her in his arms. Jealousy swirled in my heart, sharp and unexpected. How can you get jealous when you haven’t really known her?

But I knew her. I had reached into her mind and she had let me. She was Kira, married to Aldrin, and her father was a bear; the same bear that came to meet Aldrin the first day I was here. Vakezul.

That was, admittedly, all I knew.

I stared at them without meaning to. Kira returned my gaze, staring icy daggers at me. Did she know I was jealous? Was it why she was looking at me like she thought I had no right to be jealous?

I closed my eyes to prevent myself from staring. I wish I had covered my ears as well, because seconds later, a kiss followed. I couldn’t feel any emotions behind the act, as though they were going through daily rituals. Formalities.

Or maybe, it was only what I had wished to feel.

Kira reached out with her mind and pushed me away. I tried to feel again, but she stopped me with apparent ease. I had no words for what I was doing, but whatever it was, Kira was much more practised at it.

“I had missed you, love,” she said, and I could see without opening my eyes that she tilted her lips up for him to kiss. He obliged.

“Me as well,” he said, and even without reaching for his feelings, the words sounded hollow to me. Apparently, Kira was much better at acting, too.

I cleared my throat, and opened my eyes to watch Kira blush and Aldrin step back. It soothed some small part of me, but still, jealousy still burned inside me.

“Kira, please meet… him. I found him lying by the road while I was returning from Kelishmer. And here is Kira, my wife, as I had told you.” He smiled at me, and the tips of his teeth shone in the darkness. It was like a warning: don’t you dare say that I didn’t tell you such a thing. I was tempted to do just that.

“Ah… Yes… hello, Kira. My name is…” Again, that feeling, that thing which prevented me from uttering my name. But Kira knew it already.

“Oh, no need for names if you do not wish sharing it,” she said in response to my silence. I nodded slowly, in acknowledgement of her kindness, the image of the kiss flashing in front of my eyes.

“So, where do you come from?” She asked, and her gaze was disinterested and empty. I was tempted to think that all I had felt before was a mere hallucination.

I come from near the park in which you incinerated a man.

“Somewhere you don’t know about,” I said sulkily, and quickly tried to fix it. “I mean, I don’t really think you are aware of its existence. It… I’m not sure, but it may be a different world than yours.”

“He means the Southlands,” said the all-knowing man I had come to know as Aldrin. “They all think they live in a different world that is better than ours.”

“Yes love,” said the ever-appreciative wife. “You know Southlanders so well!”

Anger spiked through me, cold and unforgiving. I sat up, and when the world had stopped spinning around me, I shakily got to my feet.

“You know what?” I said, staring coldly into their eyes, one after the other. I could feel my face growing hotter, my pulse quickening. The fear of losing my temper was slowly–but steadily–increasing.

“What?” Aldrin said, stepping protectively forward and squaring his shoulders with a cocky, I’m-ready-for-you expression.

I leaned forward, putting my hands on my knees. “Listen well, because I am not going to repeat this ever again,” I whispered menacingly. Words seemed to be pouring out of my mouth. Rage burned in me now, fuelled by my jealousy, and a compelling force kept whispering into my ears. Speak, speak until there is no more to say.

“She is not your wife. She never was, never will be. Do you know why? No? Let me tell you. I am the Truthbringer, and I swear on this honour that was given to me by the gods themselves that this remains so, until I die. And even then, I will come back and haunt you, until your sanity seeps away, into the recesses of your mind, locked away by all the grief and pain you have caused.”

At first, nothing happened. Then, Kira’s face registered shock, but Aldrin remained impassive.

Then, he looked at me, long and contemplating.

“Yes, my love, a typical Southlander.” He pulled her close for another kiss, all the while looking at me, his eyes full of glee. Then, he licked his lips, turned to me, and chuckled. Starting slowly, softly, it gained power, turning into a throaty, contented, careless gloat that seemed to go on until eternity, defying all of what I was, all of what I believed in.

Then, my mind played that trick on me – the one in which you start seeing everything in slow motion, with every single detail. The one in which your muscles are all coiled, ready for fight or flight. Except the bit about fighting is utter nonsense. It’s all about flight. At least, it was like that for me. Until now. Now all had changed.

“Yes, Aldrin, with one exception,” I shot out my words between my clenching teeth. “None of the Southlanders know this.”

With my last words, my hand closed on the grip of a dagger. A slim, long, well-balanced weapon of destruction, surrounded by a searing flame. Where it came from, or how I managed to hold it, I did not know. But I did not care. The cause of my rage was in front of me. I threw.

Kira’s eyes widened. Aldrin blinked, as if slapped. His impressive muscles flexed and unflexed several times as he imagined just what he was going to do to me. Blood rushed through my ears, and I could feel the veins near my temples throb.

Then, he looked down at the protruding dagger, and the gushing blood thundering down his chest. Slowly, he pulled it out, spun it around, aiming it at Kira’s heart. He still did not seem to register the pain. But it must have been there.

“No!” I screamed, jumping forward, knowing that whatever I do would be too late.

The dagger began its way. I willed Kira to step away, jump away, run, but she was transfixed.

It cannot end like this! I am the Truthbringer, I should have a chance!

The dagger continued its way forward, time was slowing down.

I knew where I would land, and no matter how much I wished to move faster, it was impossible. Kira, suddenly aware of her surroundings, lifted her left foot, but we both knew that she will not be able to make the step.

I screamed. Aldrins knees sagged. There was one option left.

“Lornath!”, I yelled, with all my being, as if my sound could stop the universe, just for a moment so that I could reach Aldrin. But nothing happened.

The tip of the dagger touched, then pierced Kira’s skin, drawing a trickle of blood. And then, a searing wall of flame erupted. Blood red, like my rage. It promised salvation, but only for a moment. Its red fingers gently licked, then engulfed them both in its roaring grip of death. The last thing I saw was Kira’s gentle face, her eyes, looking at me, without any hint of anger. Did she forgive me? Was she hoping, still?

I landed face down, tears rolling down my cheeks. The air was unbearably hot around me, but I did not care. The only thing that mattered to me was gone. Only a handful of ash remained, floating up gently with the wind, joining the dance of the clouds above.

Images floated in front of my eyes. A child, calling me pothead… Running through a forest… Aldrin, as he greets me… Thea, trying to heal them… burning bodies… and I stand there, looking…

Rage was a well known companion. It has been with me for weeks now, urging me forward, relentlessly. I looked up at the floating ash. Soft rain started to fall. Thunder rolled in the distance. The gates of the Heavens were open.

I am the Truthbringer. A tool, a weapon of fate. And now, this is where everything must end. This is the night… the night where I fall. There is noone to help me, save me. They are all gone. I’ve done it. I’ve killed… Gods, I’ve murdered them all.

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Erion

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