Chapter 5: Melana
Draden had arrived at his house sometime in the early morning, an hour or two before the sun would rise. He was now recounting to Kladspir what had transpired, skipping completely over his encounter with Flagprim; truth be told, he didn’t know how Kladspir would react, and he didn’t fully trust the man. The elf spoke truth; Draden could see it in his eyes. But Kladspir…he was hiding something. Inside, Draden was worried: he had not seen the elf again after he had left him fighting.
Had he been captured? Had he been killed? ‘If I wasn’t such a wimp, I would have stayed and helped,’ he rebuked himself.
‘But he told me to leave,’ he fought back. ‘If he had needed help, he would have asked. He knew the consequences; he knew what was best. I did the right thing by listening to him.’ Deciding to let it go, he sat back in his chair.
He had just finished telling Kladspir the scene of the black cloud bursting through the veil, and the man sat there in silence, chin resting on a fist. Then he stated, “It seems that, basing on what you’ve portrayed to me, a portal has been opened to the world of the Gorginoths.” Draden remained silent and completely confused. Noticing Draden’s raised eyebrow, Kladspir continued, “I am almost positive that black cloud you witnessed was a large mass of the Gorginoths’ spirits. If indeed there is an open gateway to their world, our situation is far more dire than I had imagined.
“If the spirits of the Gorginoths unite with their bodies in our world, all hope will be lost. However, the open portal means more than that: creatures from their world’s foul surface can, and will, cross over to ours. But how to close it…?”
Draden’s thoughts were tumbling over each other in his mind. Questions formed and dissipated before he even realized they were there. After a while, a few questions solidified in his mind. “Why is it so bad that the Gorginoths spirits unite with their bodies? What can we do to stop this threat? How do we close the portal?” he asked, mouth furiously working over the words.
Kladspir responded to the first question without thought, “The Gorginoths currently have only a partial fraction of the power they could have. To come to this world, they tear their spirit in half, sending their body and part of their spirit to our world. The other part is disembodied and remains in their world. Without their daerkrings they could not remain here or even come over to our world.” Draden recalled that Flagprim had said the exact same thing.
Kladspir kept talking, “To answer your next two questions, I do not know what we can do. I must only guess. I have heard long ago that there was once a portal opened to the land of light, a great deal of time before the exiled elf was even born. We could do the same and call upon their aid to fight this threat. I know of only one way to close these portals, however, and that poses a problem, for once closed, you cannot return unless a portal is opened again. The only way to close one is to enter the world, and from there, I know not what. We can, however, possibly find more information on both of these things from the scrolls stored in Cradof.” He paused, finger stroking his chin in thought, then exclaimed, “Remember that the Fra’tsi will be attacking Perdfale soon. We shall remain here until the battle is over, and then we must go to Cradof.
“Do you have weapons?” Kladspir asked randomly. Draden nodded; he still had the sword Melana had given him, though he had never used it.
“Good!” Kladspir stated, standing up. “I will return when it is time for battle. Be prepared.” Then he walked out the door, leaving Draden to his thoughts.
Draden sat silently alone. Doubts had crept into his mind. ‘What if I don’t come back from this?’ he thought nervously. ‘What if I die? There are people here I might never see again…like Melana.’
‘No!’ he argued back. ‘You don’t still feel that way. You don’t even remember what she looks like.’
‘But still,’ he returned, ‘it can’t hurt to say goodbye.’
For now, however, he could do nothing but wait for the sun to rise, considering that people would still be asleep in Perdfale. He had not eaten since lunch the day before, yet he was not hungry. His encounter with the…thing was distracting him more than food. He knew it wasn’t his fault, but he could have stopped it from happening…if he had known more magic, and if his father had told him sooner. It was his father’s fault.
No…not his father; an imposter. All his fault. Fuming silently to himself, he stomped into his room; he needed to be doing something. He crossed over to the dark wooden shelf on his wall and picked up his “mother’s” gemstone, pausing to stare at it intently. Red light from the now rising sun glittered in through his window, streaming into the navy depths of the gem and casting bright violet circles on the walls around him.
Purple light dancing in his eyes, he gazed at the shining blue surface, thinking to himself. He already knew no physical means would affect the stone, seeing as it had resisted all his feeble attempts. Maybe it was magically protected. There was only one way to find out.
All he needed was a thin hole towards the top of the gem. He held the egg-shaped stone vertically in front of his eyes, focusing on the narrower part. Then, he slowly and firmly said, “Grangnir.” If he had been an observing bystander, he would have seen the pupils of his eyes turn scarlet, leaving the bright green rings of his irises around them.
He did not remember bringing the stone closer, yet it came nearer and nearer in his vision. Afterward, he assumed his eyes had somehow…zoomed in. He had expected to see cracks or facets along the gem’s blue surface, yet it was nothing but smoothly untarnished.
Then slowly a hole began to form as the blue melted in on itself, burning a hole straight through the stone. His pupils turned black again and his vision reverted to normal. The stone sat innocently in his now open palm before him. He brought it toward an eye, seeing a smooth hole through it. “It worked!” he breathed excitedly. But now he faced another dilemma: he knew of no chain or string that was small enough to fit through the hole, yet durable enough to wear around one’s neck. ‘Well, I’m one step closer,’ he thought optimistically.
With the sun now making its way lazily into the sky, he realized the city would be awakening. But first, he decided to eat something before departing, his hunger returning to him with his newfound excitement. Melana had gone this long without talking to him, she could wait one more hour. ‘And while I’m saying my last farewells, I might as well see Faline too,’ he thought halfheartedly to himself with a quick chuckle. He grabbed his cloak and dropped the gemstone in an inner pocket. ‘Just in case I find a chain while I’m in town.’
He meandered slowly along the dirt path, sun bathing him in its morning warmth. It had taken Draden an hour to finish eating, and then he had decided to clean off the sweat and grime he had accumulated over the past week. Now he was out walking on the road with a wall of dark green trees on both sides. He had been walking for half an hour, but he had encountered few people, more gradually appearing as the sun rose higher.
A cool breeze ruffled his hair, battling the heat wave from the glowing orb above. It was hard to believe it was winter.
Another half-hour passed by, and he soon caught site of the northern entrance to Perdfale. This caused an ironic thought to form is his mind: ‘The city has no walls or gates. It’s virtually defenseless; there’s no way to keep anyone out. In wanting to feel free and in tune with the forest around them, the people of Perdfale have spelled their own doom. With the Fra’tsi planning to attack soon, our only hope of winning would be to defeat them before they reach town.’ Mentally taking note of this for future reference, he walked down the widening path that became one of the main streets in Perdfale.
He planned to first say goodbye to Melana, maybe even make amends with her, and then he would see Faline…if time allowed. He was slowly beginning to regret how cruelly he treated Faline. She obviously liked him quite a bit, the least he could do would be to show her kindness. He’d have to make it up to her before he left. So, now he walked down the main street, people walking out their front doors for a day spent in trades.
The traders worked for the king, half of their income going to him. The last day of the week was, on order from the king, reserved for them. All other shops closed, allowing for a boost in the sales for traders.
Draden turned right onto a busy side street, passing the closed Baker’s shop. Children laughed happily as they chased each other among the bushes, dashing across the street in a desperate attempt to escape. Their mothers sat in chairs on a front porch, shaking their heads at their children’s energy, and chatting together while their husbands were in the Town Centre trading and bargaining for things.
He took a left and saw Melana’s house approaching on the right. He jogged confidently up the steps, planting a few quick knocks on the door. A split second later the door flung open, and Katliana, Melana’s mother, was speaking furiously. “There you are! I’ve been waiting for hours! There are chores that need be done, young lady, and-” Noticing Draden, she stopped. “Oh, it’s you. I didn’t expect to see you around here again,” she growled.
Draden, hurt by the resentment in the woman’s voice, replied, “That’s why I came back. I wanted to tell Melana I’m leaving-”
“Yes, we know already,” the woman butt in, “You left her long ago.”
Draden, realizing that Katliana thought he was here to break up with Melana––after a year––explained, “No. I mean I’m leaving Perdfale, and I’m not sure if I’ll be coming back. I wanted to apologize for everything….”
The woman’s stern gaze softened slightly at this comment, and she replied, “It’s a little late for an apology.” Then, seeing Draden’s sunken face, continued, “But I think you can find Melana at her father’s shop. He sent her there this morning to get water from the well and meat for dinner, but she hasn’t come back yet. Maltor would have gotten it himself, but he went straight over to the centre so he could be first in line to trade. I’m not sure what’s keeping Melana, but I’m sure you’ll find her. An apology probably won’t mean much after so long, but it’s needed, Draden.” The next thing she said shocked him completely, “You know she still loves you.”
A wave of emotion swept over him. ‘She…she still loves me! After- after so long? What have I done to her? She never pressured me, never approached me…. She probably wanted me to come to terms with myself before mending things. Why’d it take me so long to see that?! I’ll be leaving soon.’ Finishing his train of thoughts, he said a quick ‘thanks’. Emotions throwing themselves at him, he walked subconsciously down the stairs and toward the Town Centre.
He entered the bustling ring of shops, being jostled as people rushed to buy things before someone else claimed them. He squeezed through the last group of shoppers and emerged on the empty street that the butcher shop stood on. It was like a totally separate world from the Town Centre, the dusty street devoid of people.
He walked up the steps to Maltor’s shop, pushing through the partially open door. Burgundy cloths hung over the windows, sunlight casting dark streams of red across the floor. There was no sound, and he turned to leave, thinking Melana had already left, when he heard an almost imperceptible whimper come from what he determined was the freezer.
He cautiously walked over to the door, heart beating loudly in his chest. The sound came again, and he reached down, turning the handle and opening the door. A blast of frosty air stole the breath from his lungs, and he saw through the fog a form lying on the ground. He rubbed his arm, shivering in the cold. Was it Melana? He hurried over to it, bending down to look into the eyes of the girl he had not seen for over a year.
A bucket lay next to her, and a small pool of blood was around her head. On a closer look, Draden saw a small cut at the base of her skull. He could only guess what had happened.
From Melana's perspective, it had gone like this: She had set the bucket, full of water from the well, on a shelf adorning the wall across from her. She had been trying to reach a piece of meat her father had asked her for on the shelf above that, but she had slipped on the icy floor, her hand knocking the bucket as she fell. She hit the back of her head on the ground when she landed and had been knocked unconscious for who knows how long; she had awoken to find her legs frozen to the ground by the water the bucket had spilled on her in its descent.
Draden took this in, eyes watering as he gazed at Melana’s pale face and blue lips. Her eyes fluttered open at Draden’s touch, hand reaching up to stroke his face, as if to make sure he wasn’t a phantom. “Draden?” she whispered.
He moved closer, voice wavering, “Yes…it’s me.” He smiled, tears dropping from his eyes.
“Don’t cry, Draden,” she said coughing.
“Why?” he asked, grasping her hand.
“Because,” she shook, “I still love you.”
He collapsed onto her chest, fist banging the ground. “I’m sorry, Melana.”
Tears were now streaming from her own eyes, “For what?”
Draden choked a laugh, voice deep from sorrow, “For what I’ve done to you. For everything.”
Melana coughed again, her breathing coming slower. “I forgave you––” she wheezed, then finished, “––long ago.” Her breath was released into the air, like her spirit leaving her body. Her eyes, empty of life, remained fixed on Draden, her hand limp in his.
He had always expected that in a situation like this he’d be crying hysterically, but instead he lay resolute across her body. It was almost as if he couldn’t accept she was gone. Then he realized he’d have to tell her parents she had died. Him, after he had left her so harshly.
Then he cried, knowing he had just lost the last person he had ever loved who had loved him back.
Daerkrings = Dārk-rings
Katliana = Kăt-lee-ä-nŭ