The Silent Witness (Published)

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CHAPTER 17 - DANGEROUS DECISIONS

Sërafinn’s eyes flickered open and she quickly sat up, immediately regretting it. She groaned and closed her eyes. She felt a gentle hand on her shoulder.

“Lean back, my love.”

“Mother?”

“I’m here,” Vězra said softly. Sërafinn could just make out her mother’s form and saw two more figures silhouetted by the window. They came to Sërafinn’s side the moment she woke.

“My dear child,” came the anxious voice of Motiňa. She felt her aunt kiss her on the cheek while her other hand was taken gently by Kafshëva.

“Where. Am. I?” She struggled to get the words out of her mouth. Her mother and aunts had to lean closer to hear her.

“You’re in the grand palace child,” whispered Kafshëva, who was gently stroking her hair. “We thought it best to have you among us than be alone in your palace.”

Pain flared throughout her body. Her head was aching and she wanted to cry out that such pain was impossible for anyone to endure. A cool cloth was placed on her forehead and felt her entire body burn as if Sælev brought the sun inside the chambers. Her thoughts were hazy and her body was in agony.

“How? What?”

“Save your strength, my love,” came her mother’s soft yet firm voice. “We’ll sort this out. I promise.”

Kafshëva was beyond herself. “How is this even possible?” Motiňa looked at her sisters imploringly. “What kind of force could make a goddess succumb to its mercy?” Before long, the two sisters were demanding answers to their never-ending questions. Sërafinn vaguely saw through heavy eyes that her mother remained still, looking at someone else in the room. She wasn’t looking at Motiňa or Kafshëva but was looking in the direction of the doors. Sërafinn carefully (and rather painfully) turned her head and barely made out the quiet figure standing there. Samrósa.

Vězra rose from her daughter’s bedside and kissed her on the cheek. She asked if Kafshëva and Motiňa would stay with her daughter and they immediately answered they wouldn’t let her out of their sight. Vězra glided towards the chamber’s doors, hands clasped, and looked hard at Samrósa.

“Come. We need to talk.” Samrósa bowed her head in silent acknowledgement. They ventured towards the throne room.

* * * * *

No sooner had the great doors of the throne room closed when Vězra whirled around and exploded.

“What happened out there?!” Vězra shouted, no longer contain her pose as queen. She was now a frantic mother. Samrósa blinked, lost for words.

“What? Me? I? I... I. Did. Nothing!” She hissed back at her mother. Vězra lunged towards Samrósa and slapped her hard across the cheek.

“Something happened! Your power surged throughout Evertheen. Nothing like this has ever happened!”

Samrósa, holding her cheek, looked back at her mother with a sarcastic expression. “Well, there’s a first time for everything!” Vězra raised her hand, ready to strike her again when the great doors swung open.

“Enough!” Zethër bellowed. Vězra turned sharply and saw her husband coming towards them, Olěnd, Tengër, and Færró were following him inside as the doors closed behind them.

“Don’t raise your hand at anyone ever again!” Zethër was furious.

Vězra was not deterred. “If I want answers,” she dangerously began, “then I’ll get them by whatever means necessary!”

She turned back to Samrósa, but Zethër grabbed his wife’s wrist and pulled her towards him.

“Not while I’m king!

“What about being a father!?” Vězra screamed. The aurora lights were turning into an angry crimson colour above them.

“I want to know what happened just as much as you,” Zethër said. “But we can’t go lashing out at everyone just to prove a point. Why do you accuse Samrósa? Have you lost your senses in thinking it was her just because she was the last one who saw Sërafinn fall from her throne?”

Vězra gave a harsh laugh. “No, dear husband. An emotional force overcame our daughter!” Zethër blinked, taking in this new piece of information. Just then, the great doors swung open with the remaining Evertheenians coming in, Motiňa and Kafshëva included. Vězra pushed her husband roughly aside and anxiously hurried towards her sisters.

“Sërafinn?” She began.

Kafshëva raised her hand. “She’s sleeping Vězra. We have attendants watching over her.”

“I asked you to stay with her!”

“And I called a meeting!” Zethër’s voice came from behind. She slowly turned around, trying to comprehend what she’d just heard.

“You?” Vězra was trying to find the words. “Want. A meeting? While our daughter is lying near death in our chambers?” She looked at her husband with loathing in her eyes.

Zethër spread his hands. “We all need to come together as a family, Vězra. It’s the only way we can work this out.”

Remesló cleared his throat. “Near death?” He repeated Vězra’s words. “But… we can’t die?” Vězra looked at Olěnd, who locked eyes with her in silent agreement.

“You felt it too?” She asked nervously.

“Yes.” Olěnd couldn’t grasp that he was confirming a goddess was near death.

“What?” Blurted Verontó. “How can this be?” Everyone was looking at each other, trying to find order in this moment of chaos.

“We need to retrace our steps,” Zethër replied. “Who - other than Samrósa - was with Sërafinn on the Moon Shadow Throne?”

Færró stepped forward. “I was with her for a while and then left.” Everyone was quiet. “But she was fine when I went back to my palace!” He quickly added.

“What did you discuss with her?” Kafshëva demanded.

Færró recounted everything they had spoken about; from how they both admired Queen Shafis, to Motiňa’s new wine created in Secret Lamp, his anger towards Alkan for sacrificing a child to him, his anxiety that the Second Age might come to an end and how she managed to calm his fears until he felt a flicker of renewed hope and took his leave of her, still standing at the bottom of the stairs of her silvery throne. He left nothing out.

Verontó was growing impatient.

“Alright! So ’Songbird’ here has anxiety issues!”

Verontó would often make fun of him by calling Færró ’Songbird’; partially because he was the god of music and due to his unique wings. Færró and his parents, Kafshëva and Tengër glared at him.

“Could we jump to the part where my sister is near death?

All eyes rested on Olěnd. “The moment before I heard Samrósa’s call I already became aware that someone, somewhere was near death. I would never have imagined it being my niece. I can still see her lying at the bottom of the stairs.” He lowered his eyes, shaking his head. Motiňa placed a gentle hand over her husband’s.

Verontó exploded. “And? There has to be more to this than meets the eye?”

“Son,” Vězra said. “What your uncle means is, your sister is losing her celestial essence.” Verontó opened his mouth, but no words came out. Olěnd put his hand on Verontó’s shoulder.

“Not completely. But your sister became more human in that instance and has remained that way ever since.”

“How is that even possible?!” Sælev could no longer contain himself. Like Verontó, he too was anxious for his sister. Vězra looked at Samrósa, who was still holding her cheek.

“Well?” She snapped at her daughter. Samrósa came forward and explained to everyone that a small portion of her power had left her and clung to Sërafinn. As the goddess of love, she immediately knew who had drained her of such power.

Sælev angrily stepped towards his sister. “You play around with people’s hearts, but this?” He was shaking from anger. “We don’t use our powers against each other! That is the Law!”

Before she could answer Vězra’s mind was racing, trying to piece the puzzle together. Looking at Sælev, she said, “it seems your sister didn’t give up a portion of her power willingly. It was inadvertently taken by Sërafinn herself, without knowing the complications that would follow.”

Everyone was in an uproar. This had never happened and due to their immortality, the Ancient Laws of gods prohibiting themselves from using their powers against each other now suddenly became crystal clear. Sërafinn was proof of what would happen should they defy the Ancient Law. Even Ismińa was speechless.

Zethër looked at his wife and asked, “Who is she in love with?”

Vězra looked at her husband with a pained expression and shook her head. “I don’t know,” she whispered.

“I do,” came the small voice of Samrósa. Everyone looked at her, silence filled the air.

“Daris Kane.” She proclaimed. She would know, after all, it was her power drawn from her sister when she laid eyes on the prince. Sælev almost sniggered, had the situation not been as perilous as the one they now found themselves in.

“Daris? From Kain Nightly?” He asked.

Samrósa nodded.

Sælev looked quizzically at everyone. “She’s seen him, we’ve all seen him, and his father, and his father before, all the way back to the founding father of that kingdom! After all this time, why now?”

To everyone’s astonishment, Vězra burst out crying, so badly she staggered into Tengër, who quickly caught her and eased her into one of the thrones. Zethër came to his wife’s side. Everyone was speechless at the sight of the emotional Queen of Evertheen. Motiňa and Kafshëva rushed towards their sister. As mothers themselves, they could only imagine the fear Vězra was going through.

Eventually, after some time, Vězra composed herself and related to everyone what Sërafinn said to her when she went to confront her daughter at the Mark River. She never realised that Sërafinn still harboured a sense of loss in her heart. She thought they came to an agreement. She thought Sërafinn was over it. She thought?

Wait.

It wasn’t as much as the child who drowned. Sërafinn was pining over something much larger and it hit Vězra so hard she moaned. What was it she said to her mother that day?

What’s it like to be a mother?” Sërafinn had asked her at the Mark River. The conversation now came back in torrents and Vězra shut her eyes, desperately trying to block out what her daughter had said.

… sometimes I wish I did have an end. Live my life to its fullest and die peacefully, as many humans do on Barathorn.

Everything made perfect sense.

After a long silence, Remesló asked, “what are we going to do about this?”

Olěnd shifted uncomfortably. “She can’t stay here on Evertheen,” he began. “Her life force is fading with each passing hour. The only reason she’s lasted this long is because she was born a goddess, so her constitution is still strong. No human has ever been on Evertheen and we all know that if a human took one step in our realm, they will die.”

“And where exactly do you want to have her ‘removed’?” Motiňa demanded.

Olěnd looked at his wife and replied, “she’ll need to be placed somewhere safe on Barathorn.”

Everyone exploded at this remark. “Never!” Shouted Verontó.

After continuous arguing, Ismińa pleaded for everyone to be quiet. “My father is right,” she said. “The longer Sërafinn stays, the weaker she’ll become. To what Queen Vězra had relayed to us and according to Samrósa’s account, it is clear that subconsciously, whatever was in Sërafinn’s heart at the moment she saw the prince, it accidentally drew power from Samrósa. But there is hope. If she were to recover elsewhere, her celestial essence will eventually return.”

“How?” Samrósa asked.

Ismińa pointed towards the Silent Whisper.

“These waters are the life source that runs throughout Evertheen. It has safely guarded everyone’s celestial essence on Evertheen long before the Great Six even had children. We need to submerge her into these waters, take her to Barathorn and let it work within her system.”

Sælev looked at his cousin. “Will it work? How long will it take?” Ismińa looked at him, then turned to everyone else now standing around her.

“It will work, and since we are gods, we will feel it, Samrósa most of all. That portion of power that was lost? Will return. The same kind of sensation Samrósa felt will be the same for all of us. After that, it will be safe to bring Sërafinn back home.”

“Where can we let her wait this out?” Motiňa wondered.

Kafshëva looked at Olěnd. “Can she not stay in Terra Nimble?” The god of death sadly shook his head.

“Only the dead may enter. If Sërafinn walked in there as a human and not as a goddess, she would die immediately.”

Vězra groaned at that remark. Zethër placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“What if we put her on one of the islands?” He asked.

“No,” Ismińa answered quickly. “The seas have been rather… unpredictable lately.” She gave Tengër an accusing look. He didn’t give her eye contact.

“What if we hide her in one of the capitals, or one of the northern kingdoms?” Sælev suggested.

Vězra gave him a sharp look. “No! I will not have her at the mercy of Senators or questioned by Monarchs!”

“But mother, they won’t know who she is.”

“They will easily recognise by her visage that she is high-born and will begin a relentless search of fishing out her background. She needs to heal, not have prying eyes and constantly being harassed over who she is. If they find out what she is…” Vězra didn’t have to complete the sentence. Many of the gods nodded in agreement.

Sælev thought for a moment. “Queen Shafis stays true to us. Maybe she could help.”

“No,” Ismińa replied. “Have you forgotten who is currently residing as a guest in Queen Shafis’s palace? She must stay away from him and everyone else.”

Eventually, everybody began naming possible cities, towns, villages as places where they could place Sërafinn during her time of isolation to recuperate, but Ismińa knew better.

“There is only one place that would suffice,” she began. “Actually, there are two places, but the one I have in mind is Weeping Dusk.” Everyone gave her a puzzled look, wondering why she would choose a ruined village.

She went on to explain. “Dørn Fields and Weeping Dusk have been abandoned for centuries after the earthquake Queen Vězra summoned to destroy both villages. We can let Sërafinn stay in Dørn Fields, but I would rather prefer she stay in Weeping Dusk since the chasm is still prominent and it prevents rogues from wandering into the ruins of the village.

“I propose that Remesló construct a villa for her with many rooms and have some of the godlings live with her, to tend to her every need. In that way, should someone ever come lurking around, the godlings can use their powers to obscure any evidence that someone is living there.” Vězra gave her niece an appreciative smile. Everyone began to agree this would be ideal for Sërafinn.

Zethër looked at Remesló. “How fast can you construct a villa for my daughter?”

Remesló gave his uncle a casual look. He opened his hand and a golden-white fireball appeared. They all proceeded towards the Silent Whisper and the image of Weeping Dusk appeared. A massive waste of land with ruins lying all over the place. Seeing it now after all these years sent a shiver down Vězra’s spine. When she first destroyed the villages, it never once gave her any sleepless nights. It was a bitter irony that her daughter, a goddess, would have to reside in such a desolate place.

Remesló threw the fireball into the waters and it travelled through towards Weeping Dusk. There was a slight tremor and when the smoke cleared, a beautiful, marble villa with many rooms appeared, surrounded by fountains, pools, and stunning gardens as far as the eye could see.

“I want my cousin to have a beautiful view.” He said after he was done. Vězra put her hand on his arm and thanked him, but her smile soon faded and she looked at Olěnd. He shot her a worried look and both knew what was happening. Vězra frantically grabbed Verontó’s arm and swung him to face her.

“Go! Fetch your sister and bring her here! Now!” He didn’t need an explanation. The answer was clear in his mother’s worried expression. He ran out of the throne room. Vězra, Zethër and Olěnd felt Sërafinn beginning to slip away.

He came back again with his sister, limp in his arms. Vězra and Zethër ran to their daughter while Verontó proceeded to carry her towards the Silent Whisper. Samrósa shrieked when she saw her sister’s face.

Her lips were turning blue, her complexion was deathly pale, her pulse was weak and her hair was beginning to turn white. Zethër took Sërafinn from Verontó and began to submerge her into the Silent Whisper. Everyone was standing around, looking down at one of their most beloved members of their family and there were tears in everyone’s eyes. Verontó angrily wiped his tears away.

Zethër placed a cool hand on her fevered forehead and spoke a command. She began to dissolve into the waters and when the gods looked on, she was in bed inside her new, albeit temporary villa. Godlings already began fussing around her, making sure she was comfortable and that she would be well taken care of. The pool rippled and the image faded, turning as still as glass once more. The aurora lights on the ceilings were now dancing serenely.

Everyone let out a sigh. Zethër wished he could make time move faster. As the god of time, plague, and healing, he struggled to not use his powers of healing on Sërafinn. He didn’t dare risk it, thinking of what Samrósa’s power had done to her. He was afraid his method of healing would backfire.

Wordlessly, everyone slowly started leaving the throne room while Vězra walked towards the Chart View to watch over her daughter in Weeping Dusk. She looked back at the open doors and saw Samrósa was the last to leave. A touch of guilt filled her heart.

“Samrósa?”

Her daughter slowly turned around. Her mother walked down the stairs towards her and gently took her by the arms.

“Forgive me, my love. I was overcome with absolute fear that I forgot what an effect this was having on you too. You are also my daughter and I love you very much.”

Samrósa looked at her throne, the Silent Whisper, the gold-domed ceiling, trying to look at anything except her mother.

She then raised her hand to her cheek and remarked, “many people - including my own family - think that love is a joke and not a powerful tool. But let me tell you,” she looked hard at her mother. “It is one of the most powerful attributes in the world. I know you love Sërafinn more than me and it’s fine,” she quickly said, as her mother was about to break in at that point.

“I love my sister and my family and I would fight every battle, even though it’s not in my nature, but I would protect you all from danger. But I will never forget what you did to me on this day.” Vězra tried to touch her cheek, but Samrósa turned around and stormed out of the throne room.

Now left alone, Vězra allowed herself the sob that overcame her only moments before, mixed with tremendous guilt for what she did to Samrósa. She had never felt more alone as she did in that instant. She turned and wearily walked back to the Chart View to take another look at Sërafinn. The tears never stopped rolling down her cheeks, and she didn’t wipe them away.

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