16. A lesson in grief
We waited and tried and waited. “It’s not working” I muttered nervously looking over at Ignis.
“You can’t just summon someone without an invitation” Del informed Ignis calmly.
“I did invite her” Ignis replied. “I told Leah to let her know that we would be waiting for her as long as it took.”
Ignis came to stand beside me willing her mother’s presence to emerge from the portal. She then let out a defeated breath walking away “what if it’s too late?” she began to worry. “What if he already got to her and he-- ” she choked on the words she couldn’t bring herself to say.
‘What if aunt Mae was dead’ I thought. I knew we were all thinking it but I like Ignis could not bring myself to believe in such a fate. “I’ll keep trying. As long as it takes” I said determinedly for the both of us.
I focused once more filling my mind with thoughts of her while battling the doubt that threatened to squash what little hope I had left. “It’s working” Ignis blurted out relieved as she ran to the pond’s edge in anticipation.
I stood eyes wide and tense for the moment my aunt would emerge through the rising construct of water that became a dark mirror. I was sure the others were as tense as I was, watching in silence also as the center of the water melted away before us.
Unlike Ignis her face appeared first with eyes filled with terror as she drifted through the entrance seeming to struggle for air. As she fell ungraciously from the air, Ignis got to her side first then I did kneeling my her side relieved to see her but concerned about her condition.
“What’s wrong with you?” Ignis panicked as her eyes welled up with tears. Aunt Mae’s eyes fluttered wildly back and forth between us and the direction of the portal and in my dismay, I looked over seeing that someone else was making their way through the opening of the portal.
A tall figure emerged next scanning his surroundings then seeming pleased with what he saw smiled wolfishly, his eyes sparkling with something I could only describe as wicked.
“Erdos” Del growled behind me and I stiffened my eyes fixed upon the face of the one who started all this.
“It’s really amazing how fast these things work” he noted impressed as he studied the cell in his hand which I assumed had been my aunt’s. He then threw it aside without another thought.
“Get away... get away from him” my aunt gasped hastily now able to catch her breath and without question, Ignis began hauling her mother away from the pond’s edge with much effort but I was still frozen in place mesmerized by the face before me.
Soon after bodies after bodies with unfamiliar faces floated out after him, forming a small troop which stood purposefully on either side of Erdos.
“Liv, what the hell are you doing?!” Ignis scolded angrily and as I pulled myself together coming to my feet, Erdos’s gaze now shifted to me as if he hadn’t noticed me there before.
“Things just keep getting better and better” he commented. I was unable to look away as I watched him appraise me with curious eyes.
“Someone has been -quite literally - dying to meet you apart from myself” he continued his voice alluring and rich. “But first...” he then pulled his eyes away from mine turning to one of the Aelfe beside him “... bring the Elders to me” he ordered.
I only felt as a hand tugged me roughly backward, widening the distance between myself and Erdos. It was Del. “We need to get out of here” he schemed as we backed away to where Kelu and the others stood.
“No one leaves even though I know you will try” Erdos spoke returning his attention to us. This was the Aelf that possibly had something to do with my mother’s death and who was the cause of my father’s end.
Without warning, Del fired off an attack which was swallowed by a thick cloud of darkness that appeared out of nowhere before his frame. Del watched stunned before he was flung back into a nearby tree, and so were the others immediately after.
“I know you have many questions but first I must advise you not to do anything stupid” he warned turning his back to me and then walking towards the still erect portal entrance by the lake. Anger and fear warred inside my frozen stance as I watched his outstretched arm awaiting the arrival of something else from beyond the portal.
A small delicate hand cloaked in black emerged taking Erdos’s own and I stared at the figure as it glided out of the portal to stand beside him, cloaked in black with long silver hair caught tight in a ponytail. A dark mask covered her forehead, circled her eyes and ran down the bridge of her nose, leaving only a part of her cheek and lips exposed.
A chill ran up my spine at the site and even more so when I took in the grey flush of her eyes. ‘The shadow with silver eyes’ I thought in horror which now stood before me like a specter. For a moment I wondered why Shade had believed the specter would bear my face.
“Only cowards hide behind masks” Del grunted as he stood.
“And only fools get in my way” Erdos retorted and before I could blink the specter-like figure hovered over to him her hand on his throat. Del’s eyes flushed blue fearlessly as he struck the figure again and again and without flinching it soaked up every attack like a sponge.
My fury had grown immensely as I protested while Del struggled to get free. Before I could think about what I was doing I rushed over, laying a hand on the specter and grabbing her viciously while my other hand tried to pry the hand that was at Del’s throat away.
A searing heat rose under my touch at which we immediately flinched away from each other and the specter let go of Del’s frame like a hot bag of potatoes. I faced her watching as she held her shoulder protectively and I nursed the ache of my own hands which appeared unburnt.
“Fantom!” Erdos called out sounding concerned to the specter and she straightened recovering from whatever it was that had caused her pain.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked not understanding his motives. I couldn’t believe this was actually happening.
He looked up at me his expression had changed from pleased to cautious. “Finally someone asked. It’s usually ‘why me?’... ‘please don’t hurt me’... or some other selfish request” he ranted growing upset. He then took a breath as if to calm himself then said “I’ll be blunt, for revenge” he finished simply
“Did you kill my mother?” I wondered as my gaze shifted between Erdos and the specter called Fantom.
“No, I didn’t, we were the same Gloria and I” I took offense at his response.
“My mother was nothing like you” I warned “you are a murderer and nothing more. Many people suffer every day doesn’t give them a reason to wipe out a whole kind” I accused.
His features became dark as he spoke. “I am not many people, I am Erdos and you only speak such nonsense because you have never watched your loved one die in front of you” he spat
I scoffed at the irony of his words. “Actually I do know what it feels like.”
He appraised me with a look of pity as if recalling an event to memory “Ah, yes true. Then you why do you act as if you wish to protect the Aelfe that destroyed your mother?” he asked appearing to genuinely want an answer.
“The Elders banished her but they didn’t kill her!” I retorted angrily.
“It’s the same thing” he replied. “Destroying an Aelfe fata makes them even less than lesser Aelfe, it is something no one can find a name to describe so it is seen as death itself.” He drew closer to me as he spoke.
“I watched when they destroyed my coupling to be fata and then threw her in a duel. Since she wanted to marry a lesser Aelfe she should fight like one and like a fool she agreed. She was the daughter of the Elders of Termész and our love was forbidden. You can guess the rest, I am sure you’ve heard a similar story.”
Once again my disgust towards the Elders grew but not enough to kill them. “Why don’t you try to change things instead, you have her,” I said gesturing to the specter on his left “you’ve made your point and yet you still want blood.”
He put a finger to his lips as if seriously considering my words. “Well that would certainly be one way to handle things, but no that would be too easy,” he said coming to a decision “after what I’ve gone through they deserve far worse.”
“Then I guess we’re wasting time talking about this then,” I said coming to my own decision also. I had no intention of killing anyone and that meant that they would try and kill me also.
“I had a feeling you would see things that way,” he said motioning to something behind me. I didn’t turn to see what not wanting to take my eye off him for a moment. He smiled his wolfish grin returning.
I willed the energy around me as I watched Erdos step back and then Fantom along with his minions form a protective barrier around him. “Give it your best shot” he urged.
The green haze filled my eyes holding the silver ones of the specter. She then turned to the one closest to her holding his gaze for a moment, then to the Aelfe standing on the other side of her.
Their eyes seem to glaze over as they stepped closer to where I stood. Del and Kelu joined my side. I wasted no time in attacking first. I gathered the wind sweeping them off their feet as Del made contact tackling the Aelf to the ground before he could execute his Nese.
Soon enough the other minions were upon us and I struggled as one wrapped their arm around my neck from behind. In the same moment, a thud sounded and I spun around to see my aunt casting aside a rock that she had attacked the Aelf with.
Not far behind Sonny was slumped unconsciously against a tree, his nose bleeding and I looked around expecting to see Shine. Instead, the savagery I saw in the further shook me and if it weren’t for my aunt deflecting each blow that came at me, I would have been done for already.
Aelfe Nematons and lesser alike were fighting for their lives or against each other. The carnage before me was sickening and vividly familiar as I’d had a bird’s eye view of what was happening in my dream.
I refocused as I was tackled by another bloodthirsty Aelfe who managed to pin me to the ground while securing my arms under her knees leaving me unable to try and push her off. The pressure on her grip tightened as I frantically looked about for anything that may help.
First I spotted Fantom floating above the carnage Erdos below her as she watched on with a cold expression and then Del going hand to hand with each Aelfe that came his way while also hurtling bursts of electricity through the air.
Kelu drew from the pond beyond with great effort and I struggled for air wondering if she were going to pass out also. I then turned my gaze back to my attacker, my vision slightly blurring as I gazed into the glazed eyes of the crazed Aelfen.
It felt as though my face was about to burst as smoke and the setting sun mixed with the growing cries all around bombarded my senses.
I wished for the storm to come. I was sure my mother would be waiting for me there.
Soon I was seated in my backyard as my mother struggled to carry the tray of snacks over to where I sat. Her words and my voice were inaudible as I called out to her but I didn’t care she was there and I already knew what she said.
A series of rumbles erupted from the sky and a strange dark cloud descended from the sky sucking up everything in its path as it headed straight for us. ‘It was happening again’ I thought.
Soon my mother glanced over at me, worry lining her face as she spoke, I knew what she was saying. ‘Get to the cellar!’ she ordered while pushing aside the tables to make way for me as I stood up to run.
‘I won’t let this happen’ I decided, trying to reach for her arm. ‘I could protect her now’, I thought confidently. Before our fingers touched it was too late and I struggled uselessly against the powerful dark cloud that drew us further and further apart.
My heart raced wildly in my chest as I saw the last of her terrified face disappearing beyond the darkness. I fought determinedly to get her back struggling against the pressing darkness as it attempted to tear me apart.
Suddenly my eyes flew open and I could breathe again. I gulped down a mouthful of air, then retched severely as I gulped droplets of water also. It was raining and yet the carnage ensued. The pain I had felt that night came back to me and I searched the skies for the Fantom and when I found her I propelled myself upward with my Nese.
“You were the one who killed her” I accused hurtling a bolt of lightning at her which she absorbed unflinching. The specter remained silent staring at me blandly with her soulless silver eyes.
“You’ve lost nothing! Why are you doing this?” I argued prompting her for a response and yet she remained silent. I then hurled my body towards hers pushing on her shoulders and she hissed trying to escape my touch but it was futile as we both hurtled to the ground.
I could feel the corner of my eyes beginning to burn as I held on firmly to her shoulders and we tussled spiraling to the ground. The familiar ache started in my chest and then it burned intensely while flooding my veins, there was so much pain but still, I held on seeing that Fantom was suffering also.
As we both hit the ground I felt nothing but the burning in my body and heard only the mournful whimpering as Fantom struggled out of my reach. My body was both hot and cold as the heavy rain pummelled my skin and I could feel the throbbing trauma caused by our fall and it took everything in my power to right myself as I tried to stand but then I settled with crawling.
Fantom touched the part where her mask rested, securing it to her face. “What are you hiding?” I asked her tasting blood as I spoke.
She looked over at me also unable to stand, she then smiled one so sinister that it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. She then righted herself also closing her eyes momentarily and moments later shadows dislodged from the bodies of fallen Aelfe.
The Siths that had now been awakened around us drifted over in our direction and I braced myself preparing for the pain I had felt when they came into contact with me. I watched and was surprised to find that instead they were absorbed into Fantoms body, distorting the only part of her face that was visible to me momentarily before returning to its previous structure.
She then stood easily making her way over to me a non-threatening smile still lingering on her lips.
“Why did you stop?” Erdos questions from somewhere close. “They were doing so well killing each other” he whined.
“I’m tired” came her soft response. She then calmly turned away from me and Erdos followed.
“Fine, we’ll finish this later” he mumbled seeming displeased. He then looked over his shoulder at me “well pick her up” he ordered and right then an Aelf scooped me up in his arms, his eyes glazed over as he followed behind Erdos.
I was in too much pain to keep my eyes open for long and I kept quiet weakened by unknown injuries that seemed to go numb from time to time. For now though as my head lolled back my eyes roamed over the scene before me.
I let my eyes close unable to bear the sight. “Olivia” Del groaned and my eyes opened weakly as I searched and found his beaten figure a hand clutching his side but there was no blood.
His face grimaced as he tried to stand “you can heal” he managed before slumping back to one knee while gritting his teeth. All I could manage to do was watch him struggle as he continued to speak.
“Finally you’re awake!” Erdos cheered sarcastically. His voice boomed unpleasantly in my ears. “I really must let you know that I’ve never seen a Seilie in your condition. You put on a great show though” he praised.
He stepped over me and I rolled to see where he was going. Fantom was nowhere in sight. I spotted Sonny, awake and his face as sour as ever.
“Hello old friend, you remember when you banished me to the Pit some years ago?” Erdos asked. He then scoffed “well, of course, that wouldn’t make us friends but I’m sure you remember me anyhow.”
He then made his way over to another figure with a knife at her throat held by an Aelfe I did not recognize. “Aunt Mae!” I sputtered my heart now thundering against my chest.
“Yes,” Erdos acknowledged excitedly. “You remember what you said to me the last time we met?” he asked rhetorically then spoke “it’s ok we don’t have to bring that up again... all is forgiven and forgotten, right?” he suggested fixing her with his sweet smile.
Aunt Mae regarded him with a murderous glare “I remember and I only wished I had done it then” she spat angrily.
“Sure, sure. Well, I’ll forgive you anyway” Erdos responded unfazed by her remark.
“Olivia” he continued turning to me “there is so much I wish to tell you but I’m afraid I don’t have much time. Since you seemed a little confused about how you were feeling I decided to help you.”
He stood now between Sonny and my aunt and I wondered why no one subdued him as they did her. “Who would you like me to kill, personally I would go with Sonny but I’ll leave it all up to you” he informed me in a conversational tone.
I looked up at him frightened. “Chop Chop, or I’ll have to make the decision for you” he pushed.
“If you touch her I swear destroying your fata will be the least of your worries” I threatened him viciously.
“Of course you want me to kill the old bag who banished your mother? I’m sorry I was unable to bring his other half along with him but maybe next time” he conferred calmly.
He then gestured to the other Aelf in the room to do the deed. “No” I blurted out surprising myself and Sonny as he gaped at me in disbelief. Apparently, Erdos too shared Sonny’s disbelief and held up a hand while appraising me.
“Well, well, your benevolence knows no bounds” he marveled. I willed the energy into my body as I closed my eyes so that Erdos wouldn’t catch on to what I was doing. “Unfortunately. I don’t have the time to see wait for this all to play out, so I’ll settle on teaching you a lesson in grief.”
I focused on what I was doing bowing my head slightly as if I were falling asleep. With each passing moment, I felt the energy return to my body and also the throbbing pain in my arms and chest subside.
“Open your eyes, Olivia. I want you to watch as I cut your heart out.” When I didn’t comply I soon felt a heavy hand on my shoulder bringing my face forward and then a hand lightly slapping my cheek.
I opened my eyes then not wanting to alert him as the green haze subsided. I then focused my attention on where he stood the knife that was at my aunt’s throat earlier now positioned over her chest held by Erdos.
My eyes widened in alarm and struggled against the Aelf who held my face steady “lesson number one...don’t ever care about anyone but yourself, especially when you don’t have what it takes to protect them” Erdos lectured his eyes pleased as he saw the fear in mine.
“Are you still uncertain about who I should kill?” he asked as he put pressure on the knife in his hand.
“What can a coward like you teach her” my aunt taunted fearlessly.
“Pain” came Erdos’s passionate reply and before the haze filled my vision fully I helplessly watched as the blade pierced her flesh and went deeper still. I then drew upon whatever aura that remained inside me as I heard my aunt cry out in agony.
By the time I incapacitated my captor a thong of fire wrapped around the hand driving the knife into Aunt Mae’s chest charring his flesh. Erdos yelped releasing the knife while he curled in on himself mewling in pain.
I looked over to see Ignis resting weakly by the entrance of what I realized now as a cave. She then collapsed crawling feebly to where her mother lay clutching her chest with one hand the other latching on to the top of the blade. She was going to pull it out.
A sickening crunch sounded starling us all and once we identified where the sound came from, I blinked, shivering in shock as Sonny stood over one of our captors after bashing his head in.