O, While You Live, Tell Truth…
The rain from the storm outside flew by the wind into the room and upon Galen’s feet. He watched the storm with impatience hoping that any moment Hemele would see the truth and come to set him free. He felt in that instant he would fly like a bird from a cage and not stop until he reached Althea again.
In between the flashes of lightning, a different flash of light lit up his room that came from the outside. He knew lightning, and this was not lightning; this was stronger, brighter, and more purely white. Somehow, he could feel in his heart that it was from Althea. He dropped to his knees and prayed that she was safe.
Even through the loud raging of the tempest outside, he could still hear distinctly the faint sound of the latch lifting and the door being opened. The boy that came forth barely had time to say, “Her Majesty wishes –” before Galen was gone from the room in a mad dash.
He just prayed he could arrive in time to be of any help. He prayed he’d arrive on time and find her alive.
Althea, Mireya, and Jian ran like those pursued by Hell itself through the corridors of the palace towards the Temple of the Court Enchanter. It was a place of study and practice for the highest skilled of Enchanter Magic. Since the conjuring of the Mist, it was only used by Durai himself and no other Enchanter of Nobility as he supposedly worked tirelessly to find a way to end it. Mireya couldn’t help but feel anger at Durai as well as herself for believing in him, trusting in him that he would keep his word. Everything she had ever known to be true when it came to Durai was now completely demolished and burned to ash in the fires of truth. The jagged fragments felt as if they broke her skin as they lie in pieces on the ground.
How fragile then is the perception of truth? How easily it can be shattered a the coming of true light.
Mireya took them through secret, mostly unknown corridors through the castle towards the private areas of the garden that saved them time and aided in concealment. Once they left the palace walls, they followed the garden paths towards the concealed temple. The ground was incredibly slick and thick with mud with so much rain from the ceaseless storm. Their way was inconsistently lit with the flashes of lightning making the going treacherous. As much as the trio wanted to hurry, they were forced into slow caution.
When the small but elaborate temple was in sight, Mireya turned to Althea to inform her that they were close. She could see Althea’s face lit by lightning in front of her, and she could see the blood still coming from Althea’s nose as it became a thin, red river down her face with the rain. How long had Durai been this way towards her? Mireya suddenly realized that this had to be why Althea felt she had to go and not say goodbye. If Durai was that dangerous, Mireya would have moved to stop him. In so doing, she would be pitting herself against a might too dangerous to take down.
Mireya felt shame then; shame for her feelings of resentment towards Althea when she left, and even more shame that she didn’t perceive the signs of her abuse until this moment.
All the pain and anguish in Mireya’s heart was worn clearly on her face; she was never good at hiding her true feelings. She was always as transparent as glass, and perhaps that is why people trusted her so completely. There was never deception.
Althea looked upon the pain now and knew exactly what her cherished sister must be feeling and thinking. She reached out and took her hand, “But you’re here with me now.”
Despite the pressure of speed and time, Mireya couldn’t help but pull Althea in and embrace her even more tightly than before. Althea didn’t pressure the release; she seemed to need it just as much as Mireya did.
Seeing the temple just ahead of them, Jian changed position from the rear of the group now to the front to check for any traps or treachery. He wouldn’t underestimate anything about Durai after realizing all he must have done. Jian suspected the possibility of dangerous pitfalls within the temple.
The three approached the white tiled steps that were exceedingly slick in the rain. The two women held onto one another as Jian took out his sword and braved the way ahead. He opened the door with golden inlays thinking how pretentious this small building was. All three bodies stiffened with complete unease to see that the inside of the temple was black as a starless night. There were no windows, no access to the elements whatsoever. The building smelled old and full of books and parchment. There were holders for torches and candles, but none of them had anything with which to light it.
They could see the outline of shadows within the temple from the slightly brighter black of the storm outside, so they left the door open. Althea pushed her way to go first. With each step she reached out with her hands first to keep from bumping the unseen in front of her. She had only ever been the temple once with Durai in what seemed like a lifetime ago. She could remember very little of it except that the alter was at the farthest end from the door. Mireya and Jian stayed behind to give her space and guard the door.
Althea finally came upon a large, waist-high object with a cold, smooth surface. She correctly assumed that it was the alter. She didn’t know what to do. Though she had thought all these days on what she would do once she reached the temple, she found that she only had one vague thought that may be a long shot. Just as she sought to draw the light into Durai, she would try to draw the light into this place where this evil sprouted. Failing that, she was lost.
She placed her hands on the top of the alter and began to close her eyes and concentrate. She walked the path in her mind every step she had taken with Durai, and to her surprise, it started to work. Light grew from her hands and the contact they made with the alter. The cold surface began to spread with warmth at her touch. The light and warmth spread so much with her practiced, confident motions that the candles suddenly lit on their own and glowed with a brilliant, unnatural flame. Jian and Mireya looked on in astonishment at what they were seeing. Mireya was so overwhelmed at the familiar light from Althea that she felt overcome with passionate remembering and the fond thoughts of her tending Baldrik with it.
The images coming to Althea from the alter were faint at first as only blurred colors and shadows. She was swimming in a torrent of feelings, mismatched directions, and what seemed like instructions she couldn’t interpret. Then the lines became sharper and the images played before her as if she were there. She saw Durai, and she saw the devious aura about him almost tangible in its ill-intent. Though he had the intended spell before him on parchment, he didn’t look at it at all. He proceeded through the motions as if he had intended to fulfill this curse for a long time.
Very subtly Durai seemed to birth a grey smoke emerging from his body that quickly moved to and enveloped the whole of the alter. The color changed with Durai’s words and became the familiar purple. It rose from the top surface of the alter almost resembling a human body as it looked towards Durai. The Enchanter’s eyes glowed with the terrible green as Althea had become familiar with as he spoke in a language she didn’t not know. The figure made of the Mist seemed to acknowledge the words in a bow, and it soon dissipated into a living, formless mass of sparkling color and sweet smell. It made its way out of the temple then to complete the story the whole world knew.
Althea snapped back into the present to see the temple lit with candles which she guessed was her doing. With her more relaxed posture, Mireya moved from the door towards Althea. She grasped Althea’s warm hands within her cold ones and asked, “Did it work? Is it done?”
Althea’s eyes were far away, but at Mireya’s words she came back and bowed her head in resignation. “No. No, I don’t think so. I have to heal the Mist from its source. I thought it was here at this alter in this temple. But the source of the Mist was Durai. It was a creation borne from his malice; it’s purely his manipulative and insidious will. That’s the true source of this Mist.”
Mireya’s spirit dropped. “Then how does it end? Does that mean you have to kill him?”
Althea was so lost by what to do. She leaned against the alter suddenly so drained and exhausted as she was overwhelmed by so much she did not know. She concentrated hard again on the impression she was getting through her contact and the feelings, the impressions she couldn’t interpret. She thought on them long, and Jian standing guard at the door became anxious at the time sitting there helpless. Then his anxiousness melted into sympathy; all the worlds high hopes rested on this woman who began to show her body covered in bruises and signs of abuse. He even noticed her burn and the markings upon it that clearly showed a vicious act.
Althea touched the alter again in hopes of gaining further insight to the parts she couldn’t quantify. She searched through so much confusion to the point where she was being clearly overwhelmed. She felt as though she were drowning. She frantically pushed through this image, that shade, all the jumbled thoughts and pictures until she could feel her heart pounding too hard. Her lungs burned with needing more and more air as she began to hyperventilate.
“Althea? Althea?” Mireya called out to her seeing the increase in Althea’s distress. But Althea couldn’t hear her. She was too entrapped in the whirlwind of information; she was being consumed by it.
“Althea...” suddenly a voice did reach her, but it wasn’t Mireya’s. She recognized it immediately as Baldrik’s. He had become her guide and guardian, the rational, inner calm when she reached despair. “Althea.”
“I’m trying. I’m trying so hard, but I can’t figure out what to do. I can’t make sense of anything this is trying to tell me.”
She felt warmed then as his presence became more pronounced within her mind. He pushed away all of the confusion until it became just him and her in the space of her thoughts. The image of herself in that space collapsed to her knees while Baldrik kneeled beside her and held her. She could feel the calming effect of his presence and felt bitterness as she knew it would not last. She was so tired of fighting for so long; she wanted to stay in the warmth she knew she could not stay within.
“You’re lost. You’re looking for the path out of the woods.”
“Don’t tease,” Althea chuckled at her response, and she felt Baldrik smile. She sighed at her failed attempt at levity. “Baldrik, I’m scared. There is no path that I can see. There’s nothing but the woods. And time is running out; the light is leaving.”
She felt him reach for her shoulder enthusiastically. “That’s just it! You’re looking for the light. So, do what you’ve learned to do best. You have to kill the darkness with the light.”
“But I’ve tried that already! I’ve tried to bring the light to his darkness. Was that all it was? Is the curse broken?”
Baldrik looked at her with such reassuring patience. “No, and I’m so sorry. You only made him look upon the darkness. What’s needed to extinguish the source of the Mist and dispel the curse is to make him truly feel the light.”
Althea felt her body fall and caught herself with her hands against the ground. “But...last time...brother, I could barely hold on that long. What if he won’t see?”
He then began to glow with radiant light so bright that his form disappeared within it. The light even surrounded her form, and she could feel him within it. “Make him FEEL it then!”
Mireya saw Althea finally open her eyes as she stood beside the alter. Her eyes had the glow of revelation, and she felt incredibly hopeful that Althea was shown something to help.
While Mireya’s hair clung to the side of her face and down her back, Althea’s had fully dried with the warmth that had come from within her. She looked at Mireya’s anxious face and smiled a half smile. “I know what I must do.”
Mireya’s hopeful expression turned downward hearing the solemn tone behind the hopeful expression. “Is it bad?”
Althea sighed a heavy sigh, “It isn’t great.”
With that, the three began a slow walk through the rain back towards the castle. Neither Jian nor Mireya pressed Althea for further explanations. They could tell in her demeanor that a heavy cloud had set upon her heart. They watched as a soldier marched to danger with her head held high. She was clearly afraid, she was clearly uneasy, but she gathered courage from the heavens and the strength of the earth to power herself to do further battle with the beast she had just angered.