“He is over there.” said Huma pointing him out among the men. She watched painfully as Milos destroyed those that came close to him, both Arnayans and Garians. He didn’t need swords or spears to be lethal as the earth was his greatest ally. The rest of the rock men were scattered about, trampling and pounding any and everything in their way.
“I have the salt, mist and the gem. What do I need to do?” asked Aliana as she tore her eyes away from her husband and back to the river wraith.
“Give the mist and salt to me.” he said and she handed it over. He mixed the rose-tinged salt with water and then opened the mist vial very carefully, pouring the water in, corking it and then shook it. The mixture bubbled and the dark swirling cloud dissolved giving the mixture a purple hue. “He will have to drink this. It is a purification potion. It will erase the dark magic that Moriah bound him with.” he said giving her the vial.
“And the gem?” she said taking the wooden pendant and opening it. The gem had regained its amaranthine tinge from the Non-Living plane.
“You will have to drive it deep into his chest.”
“So he will still die.” she said defeated.
“There is a chance that he will survive, but also a possibility that he might not.” Aliana started to protest but he cut her off. “Moriah bound the part of his spirit that was heading to the Dead plane to his body and corrupted it. The part of him that sacrificed himself for you while in the Non-Living plane resides in that crystal. After the crystal is planted deep enough, the potion will cause an exchange. The good spirit will entire his body, while the corrupted part will enter the crystal. You will know when it has happened when the colour changes. You must then remove the crystal quickly and destroy it.”
“Is it the only way?” she said looking up.
“It is.” he confirmed.
She nodded and took the vial. She then unplugged the obsidian cork from her staff and watched it blaze up once more. That caught Milos’ attention immediately as he stopped fighting. His eyes narrowed as he watched Aliana’s approach.
“Moriah is dead. You can stop fighting now.” she said still a few feet away. To her men, she directed them to leave as things were going to take an unpredictable turn and they wouldn’t want to be here. The golems gathered around Milos, their pitiless eyes watching her.
He displayed no emotion at the news of Moriah’s demise. “I suppose then it will be my duty to kill you.” he replied. Aliana cringed internally at the emptiness of his voice. This isn’t my Milos. She reminded herself. “Her mandate must be exercised regardless.”
“And why should it? What will it achieve? A continent in turmoil? Lives lost, families destroyed? What is the point of this? She used your power to kill your father Milos!” his eyes narrowed slightly as he looked down. He then looked back at her.
“It was meant to be this way. He had to die. It was the only way for me to become more powerful, to become king.”
“You were already going to be king!” she shouted as she was trying to reach him with words. “She did this to you so that she could become queen.” she raged and then winced as her ribs gave her a sharp reminder that she was hurt. She closed he eyes and then opened them, stamping down the pain. “I want to help you Milos. I want to take away the pool of darkness and emptiness and the lust for blood that she has implanted in you. This is not you. You are not the man I fell in love with.”
His jaw twitched and a small frown line appeared between his brows. The aura of green dipped around him slightly and the golems around him suddenly collapsed into piles if rock and sludge. He was listening. She was getting through to him.
After an eternity of not long at her or saying anything, he held up his head. “She said that you would try to change my mind about the direction this country needed to take. You wanted it for yourself. That was why you had me killed.”
“I would never do that I love you.” she said fiercely.
“I remember what we had. I remember many things that we spoke to each other. I remember telling you that I loved you and meaning it as well. But not once do I remember you ever telling me the same. I fell into your trap once and will not a second time. I don’t need your love Aliana. All I need is power. Moriah might be dead, but her will shall be done.” The aura of green flared up around him.
A boulder the size of her head barrelled towards her. She sent a burst of fire towards it, smashing it into tiny bits. Two more came at her and she rendered them the same treatment. She was too much on the defensive and she needed to get in nearer. She sent a blast of fire at him and a shield of stone appeared. She didn’t relent as she blew a hole through it and then followed up with another jet which sent him ducking behind the metal torso of one of the dissembled golems.
She needed to get closer to him somehow. “It is best we give this up now Milos. You can’t touch me this way, nor can I touch you.” she said. “We are both too powerful. Besides if you kill me, you lose your power as well. Like it or not we depend on each other.”
The boulders stopped coming at her. He was listening again. “That is true.” he said coming to face her. “I told Moriah the same, but she said that we shared magic and so you were a non-entity. Since she is indeed dead, it looks like I need you alive. I suppose that you aren’t going to just allow me to take you now, are you?”
“No,” said Aliana. “Not without a deal.” she shouted back.
His brows lifted. “I am listening.”
This was a long shot but she had to do it. “You get to take me willingly if you still the earth. The Landing is erupting and all our men will die when the lava flow gets here in the next half hour. Stop the quake and save our men.”
“You are overestimating my power. I can’t fight a volcano. It seems like you have to come up with a new deal or I will just take you forcefully.” he said as the green aura flared around him again.
“Wait!” she said holding up her hand. “Take the staff. It will give you the extra energy you need to silence the earth. If you don’t you too will die in the lava fields. You can fight earth but not when it is mixed in with fire. We have to do this together.”
His face was pensive as he glanced to the east. She followed his stare. The golden sludge was already snaking its way down the hill towards them. She had said half an hour, but it would be here in about half that time.
“It’s coming. You know that I am right. Do we have a deal?”
His eyes narrowed and his jaw twitched. “It seems that we do.” Aliana let out a slight sigh. “We meet halfway.” he said and they moved towards each other. When they stood just an arm’s length away they stopped. “What now?”
“Hold on,” she said sticking the staff towards him. The already iridescent gem glowed even brighter when he touched it. “I can make fire, but I should be able to put it out as well. I will concentrate on the heat.”
“And I will deal with the movement.” he finished. He then closed his eyes as if to concentrate. Aliana did the same.
She felt the embers around her, calling to her. They wanted to blaze brighter and burn hotter, but she couldn’t allow that. Instead, she willed the burning stone to cool. She sucked the fire from the sludge and into her being. It was hot, superhot. But it didn’t destroy her, it just kept building.
She opened her eyes and saw that half the world was painted red. The rest was covered by emerald green. Milos was kneeling, one hand on the staff and the other touching the ground. Deep lines were etched into his forehead as he too struggled to manipulate the earth energy around him. The shaking had stopped here. But he was probably working to still a fault line that was miles away.
He then opened his eyes and looked up at her. “It is done.” he said almost panting.
The lava flow had stopped moving. She widened her range and took on more energy. So much so that the red haze was spreading and eclipsing the green haze. “It is done.” she said. The river of orange was now a dull grey. Her hands shook as she pushed it into her pocket to redeem the obsidian plug and slipped it into place in the staff.
The night was devoid of colour and the fall in energy hit her suddenly that she staggered and fell to the ground. Her vision was blanketed by darkness but was again illuminated by a viridian glow as Milos came to stand over her. She wanted to get up, but her entire body felt as if it was made of lead.
“I believe we had a deal,” he said flatly.
“We do.” she panted. “When we work together we do great things Milos.”
“I agree,” he said.
“Do you still intend to follow Moriah’s path of destruction?”
“I never deviated from it. If I died here, I very well couldn’t go on to do what was necessary now could I.”
“So you did this to save yourself. No other reason was worthy, not me, not our countries?”
“No,” he said flatly. “This staff... I must have it.” he said as he stooped down and slipped it from her leaden fingers. He eyed it thoroughly before looking back at her. “You are exhausted, so I will carry you.” He then adjusted the staff and scooped her up from the ground.
His skin was cold and his face still empty. “My husband no longer resides in you, does he?” she asked weakly as she searched his face.
“No, that side of me is dead and will never come back.” he said as he flicked his eyes down at her briefly and continued trudging ahead.
“I thought so,” said Aliana in a whisper. She was really hoping that she wouldn’t have to do it. But this Milos would go on to destroy the world if given the chance. A bit of life reappeared in her left arm as she slid the amaranthine gem out of her sling.
He sensed her moving but it was too late, “What are you...” his sentence cut off midway as she stuck the gem into the left side of his chest. He dropped her immediately but she landed awkwardly on her feet. His hands were clutched to his chest as he tried to remove the shard.
She lunged at him and held his hands down to prevent him from pulling it out. Dark blood stained his tunic.
“You said that you loved me, yet again you’ve killed me.” he accused.
“You wear my husband’s body, but you admitted yourself that you are not him. This might save him, but then again it might not. Either way, you won’t be here to destroy anyone else.” she said through the tears that she had failed to fight off.
“Neither will you.” he let go of the amaranthine gem which now swirled with a black, unearthly light and produced a dirk which Aliana tried to sight but had managed to land just below her right rib.
The shock of pain was immense and nothing else in the world seemed to exist but that glaring pain. “We will see each other in the otherworld.” he said as his hands fell away.
His breathing was becoming shallow and that snapped her to life immediately. She crawled closer to him and dragged the shard out of his chest. With a single burst of fire blew it up in a thousand scattered pieces. She then withdrew the vial from her sling and after struggling to open it, poured it into his mouth. His eyes watched her warily, but he did nothing to stop her.
“Hopefully we meet in the next world, but not this soon. I love you Milos.” she dragged out. It was done. She did what she could to save him. She whispered a prayer to the gods for healing. It was probably too late for her as the blood pool was getting wider with each passing second, but hopefully it wasn’t too late for him.
With this final thought, her eyes closed and she passed into the void resting on her husband’s chest.