Mark, Cyan, and Ethos... Oh My!
“He that is lost, the brother will find in the light of the night diamond after faeries flight doth end.” - The Queen Matsenga
“Shaunna, wake up. We need to talk.” Hope shook her gently. He was acutely aware of Shaunna’s reaction to being startled. As was he aware of the tremendous strength she possessed. He still felt the pain of her strike from yesterday.
“Go back to bed, Hope. It’s still dark.”
“I know, it should start to get light within the hour. We need to talk, and I would prefer to do it without the others participation.”
Shaking her head in disbelief, she slowly climbed from her bed. She cringed as her feet came in contact with the cold wooden floor. Cold crept up her calves as she stood, pausing long enough to stretch in the darkness.
“Come outside, please.” The pleading tone in Hope’s voice set Shaunna on edge. She’d never heard him sound like this before and she wasn’t sure she liked it.
Grabbing a heavy over-shirt to protect her from the pre-dawn chill, she followed her tall friend outside. “What can I do for you, my friend?”
“Am I still your friend? After everything we’ve been through, I mean. They say that you really get to know people when you travel with them. I have to say, you’ve been a much better traveling companion than I have. Which does surprise me.”
Shaunna cocked her eyebrow. “Are you alluding to my previous profession?”
Hope nodded sheepishly.
“That was never my choice, Ularen.” Hope flinched at the use of his given name. “That was simply a lack of options.”
“I know that, now. I am sorry for all of my pessimism. Losing my mother was especially difficult on me. I was too young to have such great responsibilities thrust upon me. I guess I’ve become increasingly jaded through the years. I really shouldn’t take it out on you and the others.”
A friendly smile splayed across her lips. “Is this about the conversation you had with Maxx?”
His eyes dropped and he nodded, obscuring his face with his black hair.
“Ularen Hope, there isn’t a member of our group that doesn’t have some idea of what you are going through. You at least knew your parents. The princesses never knew their mother and they don’t remember their father. Narissa barely has any memory of her parents, she was only five when they died. Grathius lost his grand-father. You get my point. None of us fault you for your past. I really did mean it when I told you I wished you would come back in Vidlice.”
“Do you really believe what Na’el said earlier? About the Matsenga, and most of us being part of the magical race?”
“I do. It makes sense. In all of my travels I’ve never even heard of people that can do the things you and the others do, much less ever seen them. Not without calling on the magical creatures, anyway. Even though I can’t see many of them, I have always believed in them. As a child I could swear I could hear something in the house. That knowledge did not frighten me; it was somehow comforting. After our last sojourn in Casa De Nightshade, I now know what that was. At the edge of my mind, I knew that Ellie was there, protecting me.
“I have seen you perform miracles with no assistance other than the force of your own will.”
Hope thought about that for several minutes. “I guess you’re right. I never wondered how I did it, it was always just natural.” He fell quiet for several more moments. “Why do you think he found it so important to explain this to us?”
“I did so, because you need to understand the nature of your abilities, lest they destroy you.”
Shaunna’s daggers appears in her hands, seemingly of their own volition”
Na’el stepped from the shadows. “I did not mean to startle you.”
Shaunna stepped forward, her daggers mysteriously vanishing again. “What do you mean?”
Na’el gracefully sank to the ground to sit in a cross-legged manner. “What do you know about your father’s death, Hope?”
“What does this have anything to do with anything?” Hope snapped
“It has everything to do with everything we are talking about.”
“Oh... I don’t know much about it. All I know is, mom was never the same after she got back.”
Na’el nodded. “For good reason.
“You were still quite young when your parents went on their trip to the north-eastern provinces. You were left with The king and his wife while they were away. This was before the birth of their children. While they were away, they ran afoul of a group of bandits. The leader of this group was an evil man that went by the name of Dautan.
“Dautan forced your mother to watch as he tortured, and then murdered your father. Two of his men held her while he performed his dastardly acts.
“Your mother went into a rage when Dautan pierced your father’s heart with his blade. She used her powers to kill the men that were holding her, then to torture and then kill Dautan.
“The knowledge that she possessed such a horrible power almost destroyed her. This is what I am trying to guard you against.”
“I am a healer. I don’t possess this dark power that you describe.”
“I assure you that this power is within your grasp. If you understand that, you will be more likely to survive the ramifications should the time ever arrive that you need to call upon it.”
Hope sat next to the older half-elf to listen. “Tell me what I need to know.”
“I assume you are familiar with the concept of the balance that the light bringer created.” He didn’t wait for a response. “That balance does not just extend to light and dark. It also covers hot and cold, soft and hard, sickness and health. Each of these opposites are opposite edges of the same blade. Mark and Cyan, essentially have the same abilities, they just use them in different ways.”
The mention of the blades brought Grathius’ predicament to the forefront of Shaunna’s mind. “Oh, about Mark.” She was taken aback by his cold expression at the interruption. “It can wait, please continue.”
“For instance, Mark could, if he so chose, continually drain the heat from an object until it froze. So to, can you use your powers to cause harm as opposed to healing. The power is within you boy, just as it was in your mother.”
Hope stared into the distance not seeming to hear what Na’el was saying.
“It appears this is going to take some time to sink in.” Na’el turned to Shaunna. “Now, what was so important that you had to interrupt?”
Shaunna wasn’t ready for the sudden acknowledgment. “Oh... There’s something wrong with Mark. He’s sick, or something.”
“Nonsense, child, crystal blades don’t get sick...” He paused for a moment, as if he were listening to something, or someone. An act not altogether foreign to Shaunna.
Shaunna shrugged. “I don’t know, completely. You’d have to ask Grathius, but I’m not sure he’d even remember. I know it has something to do with his being completely submerged in darkness when we found them.”
“Yes, Grathius and Mark were both covered in darkness, causing them to attack us in the crystal cavern.” She did feel a little guilty about not being there to help Taren handle the threat in the cavern.
“Curious. Where is Mark?”
Shaunna pointed to the house. “Grathius keeps him close.”
Na’el nodded. “Look.” He pointed to the sky.
Light began to filter over the distant peaks of mountains, casting deep shadows on the forests below. Deep pinks and purples filtered through the smattering of clouds that clung to the underside of the sky. The blackness of the night sky began to lighten into a deep purple as the shadows began to shorten their grasp on the trees.
“Thus dawn breaks, as it ever will.” Na’el said at the exact moment the sun rose above the mountains.
“I hope you’re right, but I fear you may be wrong.”
“What do you mean, child?”
She looked at him. “Do you have any idea how many times over the centuries the Dark Lords have almost won?”
He shook his head
“I do, Cerethe showed me. Multiple times their victory was assured, only to be snatched from them by a flash of white and blue.” At his look of confusion she continued. “By Paron Elloy and Cyan Iceblade. Now they are both gone, and there is nobody to stop the Dark Lords this time.”
“We just need to find Cyan a new wielder.”
Shaunna sighed deeply as she reached into her pouch to retrieve Cyan’s corpse. Handing the dead sword to Na’el. She reiterated. “You miss my meaning. He is gone.”
He took the sword and examined it. The clear blade shimmered in the early morning light, but it no longer glowed with the blue light that it once did. The small sapphires that once shifted on irregular patterns were still. There was a large hole where the heart stone was once set.
“So, the Crystal Blades are not as immortal as we once thought.” he mused. “How did it happen?”
“We were in a fight with the Mother Dragon when his heart stone shattered and he fell. Beyond that I don’t really know. Taren had a theory about what happened, but I never really understood. He thought it had something to do with him donning the Dragon Talons, or some such nonsense.”
“You keep saying that.” She was starting to get annoyed.
“I’m sorry. This is all new, and I get a little over excited when confronted with the unknown. The prospect that the crystal blades can get sick, and even die, was unthinkable moments ago. That is, until you provided proof that it is possible. Another, outside of the Hope bloodline, that can wield the healing light. Of course, she too must be warned of the darkness within.” He looked at her, his eyes shining with excitement. “You don’t understand, this changes everything that Paron and I thought. More experimentation is necessary, we need to find out the limits of the ’blades mortality.”
Shaunna shrugged. “Break the heart stone, the sword dies. I watched Maxx kill the sword that was keeping the other crystal blades from going to find wielders.”
“Curious, we didn’t put anything important into those stones. We added them to the swords because we thought they were pretty. Paron was a sucker for good aesthetics.” He thought for a few moments. “Unless... No... He wouldn’t...”
“Na’el, what are you talking about?”
“It was my job to craft the heart stones, but Paron provided the materials. He never told me where he got them or what they were, and I never asked. I am beginning to think that they may have been more than simple gemstones.”
“What makes you say that?”
“The crystal blades life is what spurred my study into the magic creatures. How did they come to life? Why didn’t they become robotic insects like the rest of the technology? These were the questions that I asked myself over and over. It was clear that the virus brought them to life. That’s what it did to all of the machines. I always thought that the strong anti-virus programs that Derek programmed into their multi-ROM matrices was what kept them from going crazy bug on us...” He stopped as he noticed the empty look in her eyes. “I did it again, didn’t I? Sorry, these things haven’t been heard of for millennia. I don’t blame you for being confused.
“However, speaking of the heart stones with you today makes me think there may have been more to them than I thought. There may have been some magical protection there. I only wish I knew where the stones came from.”
A sly smile spread across her lips. “I guess I’m your best friend today, aren’t I?”
Reaching into her pouch again, she retrieved the dark blue stone that had been given to Taren after he saved the magic queen.
“Where did you get that?”
“The queen of a magic hive gave it to Taren after he saved her life”
Na’el clapped his hands loudly. “Why that sneaky elven trickster. He did use magic to create the blades. After all these years a new stone. Were any instructions given?”
She thought for a moment. “It takes two hearts to mend one broken. He that is lost, the brother will find in the light of the night diamond after faeries flight doth end.”
He thought for several moments.
“I think there are two different elements to this. The broken heart that needs mending is quite clearly Cyan’s, and this is one of those two hearts.” he indicated the blue stone that Shaunna held. A sound from inside broke caught his attention. “I can’t make heads or tails of the rest of this, but it sounds like the others are waking. Let’s go see to our sick friend, shall we?”
The sound of the others climbing from their beds met them as they entered the house. The three sisters sat staring bleary eyed at the floor. Cracking sounds echoed through the room as Grathius rose and arched his back in a very canine manner. Satisfied that his stretch was sufficient, he sat on the floor, using his hind paw to scratch behind his ear.
“Ohh... That feels nice.” He almost purred.
Narissa watched the goings on with great interest.
“Grathius, may I see our sick friend please?” Na’el asked as he approached.
Grathius just looked at him without comprehension.
“He means Mark” Shaunna explained.
Grathius nodded his shaggy head. Crystal singing as it cleared its sheath was the only sound that filled the room as he stood on his hind legs and awkwardly walked toward their half-elf host. He cradled the cold form of the flame blade in hs arms as he walked.
Na’el carefully pulled the sword from the Traren’s large hands. “I will be careful with him.” He muttered to himself as he examined the sick blade. “Curious. Blade unblemished, yet dim. Heart stone unblemished, yet dim. Blood stones stationary. Very curious.” He stepped to a shelf hanging on the wall and pulled down a large tube with a circular tray at the bottom. Placing Mark in the tray at the bottom he looked through the tube. “Mhmm, I see.”
Turning to Grathius, he offered the dark form of Mark back to him. “To use the vernacular of my time: His batteries need to be charged.”
The only sound that broke the silence was Erik’s laugh, and only Shaunna heard that.
“I don’t underrstand.” Grathius voiced the confusion that all of them felt.
Na’el sighed, suddenly missing people that understood what he was talking about. “He’s low on power and needs to be charged.”
“Do you have something you can use to do that?”
“I used too, but it was left in our old lab when...”
Na’el didn’t get to finish his thought as Hope burst out. “You have got to be kidding me.” He turned to Shaunna. “We’ve already seen a sword get recharged; not to mention what happened to Cera. Just pass him through the sword.”
An undeniable sense of caution entered her mind. “It won’t work. That much power will kill him for sure. There is only one blade that I know of that has the capacity to wield that much power, is the unfinished brother.”
Shaunna went over everything that had happened in the Crystal Cavern. Ethos had not only been able to field the vast amount of power, but he’d been able to share that power with other blades. She finished her thought aloud. “Will he be able to help us, without a wielder?”
“Most of our abilities are not dependent on our being bonded. He says it should work, and he is willing.”
The others were looking at her expectantly, having only heard half of the conversation. “Erik says that passing Mark through the Star Fire sword will most assuredly kill him. However, we should be able to pass Ethos through, and then he can share his power with Mark.”
“You have a Star Fire sword? Can I see it?” Na’el was not quite able to completely mask his excitement.
Shaunna fished the crystal cylinder from her bag and passed it to him.
Na’el was like a child being handed a brand new toy as he accepted the glowing purple crystal from her. Ever so gently, he brought the object to eye level. “Would you look at that? By the markings on the bottom of the cylinder,” He indicated the appropriate surface. “It seems you have found the night diamond.”
“I thought it was the Star Fire sword.” Hope challenged.
Hope’s voice snapped Na’el from his reverie. “Oh... it is. There are three Star Fire swords. The pale opal, the bright star and the night diamond. Each has specific traits and abilities.”
“He that is lost, the brother will find in the light of the night diamond.” Parel recited. “This is it. This is what that portion talks about.”
Shaunna nodded in agreement. “I don’t understand all of it yet, but I think you’re right. So, let’s get started.”
The crystal was warm in her palm as she retrieved the cylinder from Na’el. It almost felt alive somehow. The pulses of power through her fingers as her hand closed around it reminded her of her own chest rising and falling with the sustaining breath. Closing her eyes, she felt the very universe around her. Everything seemed to be amplified. She felt as if she could do anything.
Smiling she opened her eyes, and willed the sword to life Purple fire shot out of both ends, wrapping around her hands and to elongate into the graceful sword she’d seen Taren use multiple times. A sense of empowerment flowed through her, she knew that the idea was going to work. She reached for the scabbard that held Ethos.
Then the world exploded.