Master

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Chapter 54

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1 CONTROL CHAPTER AND 1 MASTER CHAPTER SINCE I LOVE YOU ALL!!!!

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a/n - wrote the chapter to all the depressing songs in the Master playlist.

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Kalem’s P.O.V

Everything hurt. Everything.

Everything that made me Kalem hurt, even that little secret place where my soul was supposed to be. It hurt like nothing I’d ever felt before.

But it felt familiar, the pain, which was strange because I didn’t think I could ever forget pain like this if it were.

It wasn’t like the whips or the boots when they dug into my sides, and it was nothing like that horrible ache I got in my chest whenever I thought of my Master.

This pain was different; it was like something you couldn’t pinpoint because it was coming from all over and nowhere at the same time.

This pain was different because it took everything away.

It didn’t let me see; every time I tried to open my eyes, the skin there threatened to tear, and my cheeks grew wetter. I tried to move, but that was even worse; it made my muscles stretch and burst as fresh agony sprouted inside of me, dazing me for so long that I could barely remember how to breathe.

I never knew it could hurt this much– to do pop or lose a friend, but I was quickly learning that this white-hot nightmare was the worst thing in the world.

...I didn’t want to do this anymore.

I didn’t want to keep trying to be stronger than I was, to keep trying to face a world that was full of scary monsters and even scarier men.

I couldn’t do it; I knew that now. I wasn’t the strong boy I thought I was. I was weak and only trouble, and I... I-I just wanted to go home.

If I could take it all back, I would.

I would stay in the castle and be quiet because at least I was only lonely there, and being lonely never ever hurt like this. Even when it felt like it was the worst thing in the world, I knew now that it wasn’t. I was sad, but I was also happy.

I just wanted to be happy again...

________________________

I’m not sure how much time passes while my mind tries to mend the shredded parts of itself.

But once it does, things slowly start working again, starting with my senses that come back one by one, slowly filtering in the things around me instead of just the pain.

Touch comes first. The rush of sensations against my fingertips makes hope flare inside of me when I realize that I’m gripping onto something, clutching long slick strands that were a little wet and all around me - grass.

A sharp ringing in my ears come next, causing me to wince as I reach up to block them. I go still when I find them wet before I smell that metal scent in the air that usually means blood.

I knew I should’ve been more worried about bleeding since that was never good unless it was for Master, but when I take in the winds pushing against me, I forget all about it.

They were stronger than I knew winds could be, so fast and powerful that I thought they might knock me over. But they don’t; they only make the bumpies form all over my skin as I take in the cold, the grass, my bleeding ears and finally, my surroundings when my eyes open.

I didn’t know what it was at first, the blurry green and brown ridges that cut through all the white, but when everything cleared, my helped me put it all together.

I’d seen pictures of it from all of Lincoln’s lessons of the world; the high peaks that came from the Earth in lucky places, with sharp inclines that sometimes were so high that they poked through the clouds.

They were mountains all around me, and I was on top of one. I was on a mountain.

The realization snaps me back to reality, causing my heart to take off as I remember why I was here.

I try to stand, hurrying now that my mind and body are working like they were supposed to, but when my legs buckle, and I fall back down, I force myself to take it slow on the second try.

As I stare at my shaking legs, memories of my first days with Master come back to me, of when I was too weak to stand for long because I didn’t eat enough, when Master used to carry me around, even when I didn’t need it, just because I liked it.

I push that sharp thought away, not sure if I could handle the inside heart pains when the outside ones were finally going away.

When I’m up, I wrap my arms around myself to block myself from the cold as I frantically look around. My head twists from side to side, tired eyes searching for anything or anyone, but there are only the green peaks and nothing else.

No human buildings, no people, no nyphilim. Just me.

My legs become all wobbly again, threatening to drop me, but I don’t let them. I step forward instead as I force myself to keep looking, to not just give up, but there was nothing.

There was no sign or trail to follow, no buzz of fresh magic, no waiting nyphilim who would help me, who would teach me how to be stronger, and make this all worth it because it had to be worth it or else-

I bite into my lips, stopping them from trembling as I dig my fingers into my skin.

This had to be worth it or else all of this, everything from making everyone angry, to fighting with Master, k-killing those vampires and losing Thén, it would’ve all been for nothing, and that couldn’t be.

It couldn’t!

Hesitantly, I try reaching for that ball of light inside of me, the one that let me connect to the world around me and use my magic, but it was so little now that I knew no matter what I did, I wouldn’t be able to pop.

Maybe that was a good thing because if I could, I might’ve gone home and hidden away forever.

Tears quickly build in my eyes as shame twists inside of me, I try to blink them away, but they refuse to go back down.

I didn’t know how things got like this.

How I’d gotten so far away from my only home and all the people I loved, or how I’d ever convinced myself it was a good idea to do this; to keep trying to be something I wasn’t by looking for someone who wasn’t even here.

There was no guarantee that the Nyphilim was waiting, that they were even good or would help me. But I’d made myself believe that they would because I just wanted to help.

Stupid.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

But I could still feel that cold chill inside of me and all around me, that strange, sickly magic of the other Nyphilim that had been the blinking beacon that had brought me here, right where I stood... but they weren’t here.

“You said to come!” I hear myself shout, but the passing winds take it away, along with my first few sobs, “y-you said to come find you! I-I’m here!”

Alone. Here alone as I’d been for too long, with no one left to hold me.

No Lincoln, no Aias, not his Malcolm or Wequie, or my friends who I wasn’t sure I could even trust anymore after-

Another sob comes, but I let it out this time, let it all out as it builds, growing louder until I scream so loud even the winds can’t quiet me.

My throat burns, my lungs shrink, and my heart bleeds, but I don’t stop.

I scream for all the times I couldn’t in the slave house, for all the beatings I didn’t deserve, for the training - the wrong, sick training - and I scream for the home I’d gotten before I’d messed everything up.

“Please,” I beg as I fall to my knees, wanting so bad for this all to end. “Please!”

No answer comes, not in my head or out loud. There was nothing to answer since there was nothing here but the winds and that cold, steady pulse that felt like it was right under-

I freeze. Stilling like I did when I’d been caught doing something bad, but it wasn’t that. It was just the first piece of hope I’d felt in a long, long time.

Sitting up, I glance at the sky before I drop my gaze to the dirt beneath me.

I was too high for anything to be above me; there was nothing but clouds and the rising sun, but beneath me, within this mountain, maybe...

I didn’t think the Nyphilim was waiting in the dirt, but maybe they were. If they weren’t, well, something was there, and I was going to find it; I had to.

Spreading my shaking fingers out, I settle my hands on the cool dirt, feeling the life beneath it, fresh and full like my gardens. I reach for it as Aias taught me, ignoring the pain that starts up again when I still ached all over, and I beg for it to let me in.

It reaches me, answering my desperate calls and letting my hands sink in, connecting us.

Relief makes me sniff a bit and wipe my wet cheeks against my shoulder while I quickly ask it to show me the one I was looking for; the one who owned the cold pulse, the one who brought me here, the one with the cruel, calloused voice that called me Zani in my dreams.

Seconds pass before I feel the small vibrations, the tremours that start deep beneath the Earth and rise up, making my heart beat faster as it grew. It got stronger and stronger as something shifted beneath the surface- waking.

Eyes widening, I try not to let myself freak out, but then the pounding started.

A deep, forceful pounding that made the entire mountain shake with each thump. My teeth rattle, and my magic starts to wither as I feel nature try to cower away like it was scared of what was coming.

My flowers at home had done the same thing when I first tried to find the other nyphilim, pulling away as if what I was looking for was very very bad.

A trickle of doubt passes through me, but I don’t let it stick. I keep going, even as the ground around me starts crumbling before it sinks into itself.

I watch with a frantically beeping heart as a hole begins to form in front of me, widening to make room for what was rising- and something was coming; I could feel it.

That cold pulse was getting closer and closer, heading up from the centre of the Earth so fast that it made my breaths come short. It was impossible to miss it when it was so full of magic, of power, stronger than anything I’d ever felt in Aias or myself. It drowned everything else out like a rising tide, and it was getting bigger the closer it got to the surface until-

I scramble back, moving away just as something shoots from the Earth with a loud, terrifying boom as it sends dirt flying all around. I cover my face with my arms as I twist away, shutting my eyes tight until the rubble settles and everything stills.

The moment it stops, I quickly look up, blinking my eyes desperately as I gaze up into the brightening skies and settles my eyes on the... cocoon?

It looked like a butterfly’s cocoon but far, far bigger, and it was black all around like some enormous, oval pod that someone had coated black so that nobody couldn’t see inside.

My chest rages, fighting for air as I blink up at the large pod, staring as it slowly descends from the sky as if something invisible was pulling it back down. But it doesn’t go back into the Earth, it couldn’t since the hole it came from was starting to pull itself back together even though I wasn’t using my magic.

It couldn’t be me because it wasn’t full of its usual life when the ground tried to close itself. The grass that had been there wilted and rotted before it smoother over like ice, ice that turned a jet black like the large black cocoon that settles on top of it.

A smell fills the air as that cold chill settles inside of me, promising only one thing - death.

From the corner of my eyes, I see the wisps of hot air leaving from my lips, drifting towards the black pod. At first, I thought it was fear, but this tumbling rush inside of me wasn’t fear.

I wasn’t scared even though I knew I should be. I should be getting off my knees and running away, but I didn’t want to because I didn’t feel scared, not even a little, only... happy?

I wasn’t sure if that was the word for this weird feeling, but it was like some part of me knew that this was good; even with the scent of death in the air and beneath my skin, it felt like this was all I ever needed.

Like if invisibly strings were tugging at me, I stand to my feet and slowly move forward. I didn’t know what this thing was, but my body did, and it was telling me that all I had to do was go towards it and then everything would be okay.

I just needed to reach it, to take this last step, and then all the pieces would fit together.

So I do. I step into the space of dead, black grass, not even noticing when it sprouts back to life under me, finding the life it lost. I don’t notice a thing, only the waiting cocoon that I stretch my hand towards.

I watch my shaking fingers that violently tremble as I brace for pain, but when my fingertips finally brush against the smooth, cool surface, there’s no pain - just that cold pulse that pounds under the darkness.

Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump!

I keep my hand in place, even as the strong winds stop, the air suddenly going still.

Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump!

There’s nothing, not a sound, no movement, just my pulse and the one inside and then-

Snap!

The first crack makes me suck in a breath, and the second makes me snatch my hand away. I stumble back a little with my heart in my throat as I watch them sprout from where my hand was.

It spreads like wildfire; the wide, deep lines that dig into the black oval, causing tiny specs of black to tumble to the ground beneath it. I hold my breath as the pod shifts a little as whatever was inside tried to come out.

I hold my breath, waiting for the casing to shatter, but it doesn’t. It spreads instead.

The spaces between the cracks shift and widen until they slowly pull apart, turning into long, wide cuts that make up black wings that take my breath away.

Wings. Enormous, beautiful, leathery black wings like the ones in my dreams, but they seemed so much bigger here as they spread wide open, filling my entire vision.

They shake and tremble as they stretch all the way out, twisting and turning like they were alive and maybe they were, because they moved up and down like they had their own heart.

It’s only when they shrink in do I see the wide stretch of skin beneath.

I almost forget the winds completely as I focus on the owner’s back. They were trembling too, rushed heaves of breaths coming from them that made their massive back cave in and out.

The skin was pale like mine had been before I’d felt the sun, but this skin had no marks or wounds; it was smooth and the complete opposite of the jet-black wings.

But those thoughts quickly drift away when as the back stiffens, the wings caving in tight before the owner hastily turns around to face me.

My heart stops pumping, suddenly giving up as I draw in a breathe and step away from... me?

It wasn’t me. I knew that, I didn’t have wings and I was not that tall, but they looked like me.

The hair was just like mine, except it was brown instead of black, and a lot longer, going all the way past their shoulder where it blended into their wings. But those were my eyes. They might have been white instead of hazel, but they had the same shape as mine, just like their face that was sharper than mine, wider and stronger too but still mine.

I never thought I’d had any family, but this person looked like me, a bigger, darker version of me that looked like they were about to cry.

“Zani?”

I wince a little as the rough voice crawls into my ears. It sounded wrong, deep and terrifying like it didn’t belong to this world, like it was a horrible secret you should never hear. It was terrifying and comforting all at once.

“Zani,” they say again, white eyes growing wide as black water fills them.

They step forward, and I immediately stumble back, feeling fear for the first time as I look at this strange version of me. My mind tumbles over itself as I tell myself to breathe, but each pump of air takes effort the longer I stare at this weird mirror.

But the reflection didn’t care, coming straight towards me with black tears and a wide, shaking smile. They stumble on their next step, somehow turning even paler as their body sags, and they almost fall.

I rush in quickly, letting ice-cold fingers grab onto me as I keep them up for a second before they find their footing and immediately pull me against them.

I don’t move, staying perfectly still in their quivering arms, not knowing how to pull away when my body was already relaxing, wanting to hold them too, but I don’t.

I didn’t know them, but my body told me I did. That I knew this cold skin, that I knew this twisted scent. I had to because they were crying, holding me so tight, and my eyes were filling too.

Shudders run through the large winged nyphilim, their weight getting heavier against me as they struggle to stand, but I keep them up, knowing I’d quicker die than let him fall.

I wished I knew why that was. I wanted more than anything to know who this was, why it felt so good to have them close, and why they looked like me, but I didn’t know a thing.

I still hold them though, because I wanted to, and I knew how good a hug felt when you were sad.

They pull back too quickly, taking my face in their massive hands instead as they look down at me, tracing every line of my face with those strange white eyes that would’ve probably scared me if it was anyone else. But this was...

No answer comes, leaving the space there empty as I try to fill it, the answer on the tip of my tongue, but it refuses to come out.

“Woú a ha mok-ouk! Ythene sa shazh wou te ayd ting! Yû árp fi gík, Zani!"

I blink up at the nyphilim as they yell things that make his weird voice sound even more wrong. It was so deep it made me shrink a little, but he didn’t look like he was going to hurt me; he looked happy and relieved, and very angry and sad all at once.

I try to understand them with all my might, but even with my best efforts, I only get more lost. I hear ‘Zani’ and ‘Ythene’, but those are the only words I know. Everything else leaves my head hurting as I frown deeply.

When he realizes that I’m not saying anything back, he suddenly becomes very quiet, all the happy emotions suddenly wiping away from his face as it hardens into a flat, suspicious thing.

Even though he was still shaking a bit, he stepped back, his white eyes narrowing to scary slits on me before they began to darken. It was as if someone dropped black paint inside of them as they started to turn grey first, mixing slowly until his eyes became totally black while their wings’ sharp edges point right at me.

I quickly step back, scared now that they were glaring at me, but I didn’t think I would make it very far if I ran. I couldn’t outrun wings!

So I stay very, very skills, trying not to look like I was something bad so this winged person didn’t hurt me, but I didn’t think they would.

I knew Aias would probably call me silly if he were here but I trusted this nyphilim. I had from the moment I felt them with my magic, I knew they weren’t out to hurt me.

We both stay still for a long while before the wings slowly relax, falling down at the nyphilim’s sides where they almost touch the ground. The white returns to his eyes as he studies me, watching me like Aias first did when Master told him about my popping, but I see worry and real fear in his eyes as they turn white again.

“Wíl hief a Ythene,” he mutters as he points to himself.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re saying,” I try, which makes his face crumple like I’d said something really bad.

He points to himself frantically, his wings fluttering behind him like they were upset too, which was the worst thing ever because I didn’t want to make the wings sad.

“Mekne woú klop, Zani!”

I stammer out nothing as I tried to think of what Master would do, but he wasn’t here, so I could only shake my head.

“I-I’m sorry,” I try to say, but the whisper dies on my tongue as he comes towards me again, this time with a look of determination on his face.

I have no time to move back as he lowers himself so he can rest his forehead against me. The cold skin makes me jump as I try to pull away, but he holds me still, grunting something out that stills my entire body.

He’d done something, released that cold current that wrapped itself around me and locked me into place. I try to fight it, try to move, but the only part of my that moves is my chest.

I try to speak, to make him stop, but his magic is all I could feel, along with the chilled air that brushes against my cheek as he breathes.

He mutters something else along with ‘Zani’ as he takes my hand and puts it on his chest, forcing it to stay there somehow before he does the same by placing his hand on my chest.

He closes his eyes, and something forces mine to do the same, locking me in cold, harsh darkness.

There’s nothing at first, nothing but the empty darkness and the quiet that fills it, and then, with no warning, there’s everything.

Flashing images come to me like moving pictures, coming faster and faster until it was like I was in a whole new world with purple skies and people with black wings and others with white ones.

I could see pastel lands with plants of all kinds and deep, neverending oceans, scorched lands with nothing but black sands and other ones covered in white fluffy snow.

Colony. It comes in a whisper, but it settles in immediately, reminding me of this big and amazing planet that was home to all sorts of creatures. The universe was vast, but every kind of Ythene’s creations was on Colony.

There were ones as big as the human buildings with wings made of scales and others with tails instead of legs and claws instead of hands. They were all so different, but they felt the same. They felt like us - almost.

We were different. We had the tipped ears and Ythene’s power too, but we weren’t happy like them; we didn’t smile. Nyphilims, Ythene’s chosen.

We were supposed to be good. Ythene made us better than the rest so we could guide them and keep the balance because everything in Ythene’s realm was balanced. But for some reason, all of us were so mean, with bad thoughts and bad plans.

Everyone but Zhoron.

Zhoron smiled, but only when we were alone, when the others weren’t watching. I saw that in the flashing images, the m-memories, all the times he’d snuck us away to teach me how to use my magic the way he said I was supposed to.

“I don’t get it, nobody else does this,” A little voice said while I looked over a small flower I’d made bloom.

That was my voice, a smaller, quieter version of it, but still mine.

“You don’t even do this.”

Zhoron stood above me, a splotch of darkness in the flower bed.

I saw the way nature ran from him, felt it too, but he didn’t care; he was smiling proudly at what I’d made even while the plants died beneath his feet, ”That’s because you’re the one with the light.”

And I was, because we were a pair. All Nyphilims came in pairs.
It was Ythene’s design to have one handle their darker sides and the other, their brighter ones.

There was no light without darkness, no life without death.
That’s how it was supposed to be before the Nyphilims started wanting more, before they tried to carry both it on their own.

But Zhoron never let that happen for me, not to us.

We were different. We were the last to come, the last that Ytene made, but that wasn’t what made us special.

Ythene had always made the others at the same time, so they could go into her world together, but she’d made Zhoron years ahead of me. He’d been with the others on his own before I finally came, but once I did, Zhoron already knew how to protect me.

Zhoron always took care of me. I could see that now, remember it.

All the times he took me above the clouds so I could soar with Ythene’s most beautiful sky creatures, or whenever he hid me when the others tried to teach me differently. Zhoron took care of me, always.

“I hate this!” I screamed once, my anger causing everything around me to rupture.

Zhoron was there in a second, settling his cold fingers on my shoulder so he could take all the dark feelings away, so I was left only with the good ones. ”Hate is for me, not you, Zani.”

“But it’s not fair! You should be happy too!”

Zhoron had shushed me, forcing me to be quiet while he gave me one of his secret tight smiles.

“I am happy, at times,” he said flatly, and I’d rolled my eyes. “I was shaped to carry it, so it calms me. Taking life makes me happy,”

I grimaced, and this time he laughed.

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

Zhoron just shrugged, “Nor does the joy you get from giving life. Witnessing it disgusts me, every fibre in me repels it, but it makes you happy, doesn’t it?”

I nodded reluctantly.

“Death will always be different for you as life is for me. We thrive in our places, which is why you must always take care with how you handle hatred. You weren’t built to retain it, Zani.

“Zho...”

“Quiet now,” Zhoron whispered, hand over my chest, “you only need to worry about being happy, Zani.”

I was happy, blissfully happy until the Nyphilims cast balance aside and yearned for the darkness, even the ones not built for it.

Without balance, without light, they got worse; more violent, heartless and cruel. Then the fighting started, and all the Nyphilims started hurting all the creatures we were meant to help.

They killed them, all of them, using their power to destroy everything that lived, snuffing out everything that was happy.

Zhoron fought with them; he had to, to keep me safe. He was the strongest of them, of the darker kinds, even though I knew that he didn’t want to be.

Zhoron never said it, not to me, but I saw in his white eyes how much he hated killing the things when he didn’t have to, when he wasn’t supposed to, and how much he feared they’d make me do the same.

It was why he made the plan, the one that would save us.

On the frontlines, he’d let himself be injured, make it seem like he was struck from the sky amongst the chaos, and that’s when we’d escape.

I was to wait in the darkness, under the undergrowths, by the ship, and we’d escape to some far realm where nobody would ever find us.

But then Ythene had made her weapons and elected new chosen creatures from all the other elven creatures, giving them the means to fight back.

We had to rush, the Nyphilims were dying all over, and there was no hope that they’d spare us, especially not Zhoron.

He barely got us to the ship, barely escaped the final battle, but he managed because Zhoron always found a way.

By the grace of something greater than Ythene, we got off Colony, off-world, and we set off to find our new home.

It was good, for a time, with only the two of us where Zhoron didn’t have to hide his smiles, but as time passed while we travelled through space, we started getting weaker.

Zhoron could’ve never known that we would need other life to live, a lot of it. Dead planets weren’t an option, nor ones with newly sprouting life. Our kind wasn’t made to survive on their own; we were supposed to influence other societies and ecosystems, to give and take, in measure.

It became clear then; without other life, we wouldn’t last.

So we searched the stars, trying every corner of space that was beyond Ythene’s reach to find life, abundant misdirected life. But each planet seemed more hopeless than the last, and as time passed, we got weaker and weaker.

Zhoron tried to give me his strength in the final days.

We were trailing through the edges of yet another universe, heading to the planet that would be our last hope. It wasn’t likely that we wouldn’t make it in time, not the both of us, and he wanted to make sure I survived, but I couldn’t live without Zhoron.

We were a pair, always, and no matter what Zhoron said, I wouldn’t let him hurt for me, not again.

He always had to suffer for me, to go through the worse things so that I didn’t have to. From the moment Ythene made me, he’d been looking over me, giving me everything I could ever want before I even thought to wish for it.

I wouldn’t let him do it again, give all he had so I didn’t have to.

So I’d pulled together the little power I had left. There wasn’t much light around us, only a distant promising star near our destination, but it was too far for me to reach. All there was... was darkness, the neverending darkness of space and all the sad feelings of losing our home that we didn’t talk about.

I wasn’t supposed to touch the darkness; that was Zhoron’s side of things, but I needed to save him.

It was too late by the time Zhoron noticed what I was doing.

His wings were already wrapping around him, hardening as they forced him into a cocoon that crystallized as I put every bit of power I had into saving him, so that he would be the one that lived.

“No! Zani! You know not what you do! Zan-”

I hadn’t looked, couldn’t even if I wanted to as white drops had escaped my eyes and fell in my hands that shook. I’d stared at them in the deafening silence, trying to breathe around the hole I’d scorched inside of my own soul.

By the time we reached the planet, I could barely move, barely remember how to function and make my limbs work. Without Zhoron, my mind fell in on itself, crumbling under the weight of a power I didn’t know how to cope with.

This, the darkness, was the craze Zhoron lived with, the cold deadly energy I wasn’t meant to hold, but I’d used it, and I was falling apart at the seams.

It felt like the end, like an assured end for me, but there was life so much life that I knew Zhoron would thrive here.

Zhoron deserved to be happy, to be free in his own way, to be okay and live a life like the one he gave me for so long, one where he’d only have to look after himself.

I tried to free Zhoron, but my magic was fraying, uncontrolled and vicious like I’d never experienced it before. Zhoron had always warned me not to go over the line, to stay on my side, but it was too late to take it back now.

I knew I wouldn’t breathe much longer, but if I died, then there would be no one to free Zhoron, and he would stay like this forever.

I tried harder to free him, to get some kind of control over myself, but darkness was hurriedly coating my mind, promising to blot out everything about me until I turned me cruel, like the others.

That couldn’t happen, not after we’d come so far- not after all Zhoron had done for us, I wouldn’t allow it.

Gathering the dwindling power I had left, I reached out to this new world, with all its life and barely touched power. I begged it to care for Zhoron, to keep him safe for me until I found a way to free us both.

There was no Ythene here, no one to block my request, only an open and honest planet that welcomed my light like it was starved for it. It took Zhoron, opened itself for him and took it into its centre.

“I’ll save us," I promised Zhoron while the soft dirt spread itself, opening wide and letting him sink in. ”I will find a way. I’ll suffer any means to get it. It’s my turn to suffer, brother.”

I made promises, but I had no idea what to do. Zhoron had always taken the lead, had always found a way, but it was my turn to help.

If I had more time, I was sure I could find a solution better than the one that blared in my head. But with the darkness on the verge of taking me captive, of shifting the balance, there was no other choice.

So I did what I knew Zhoron would do for me if he had to. I took my own mind first. If I was a blank surface then I’d have a chance, a greater chance than what the darker edges of my mind promised.

“This is not the end, I-I promise. I will find a way, as you did. I’ll suffer anything to save you, brother, anything.”

It was the last words I’d whispered to Zhoron and myself before I’d forgotten who we both were.

The flashing images come to a stop as the world and its mountains return, higher now than it’d been all those years ago.

I stumble back, my mind pounding as Zhoron lets me go, his face so painfully hopeful now as he stares at me.

It seemed so blank before, untrusting when he realized that something was wrong, but I knew those white eyes darting between mine.

“Zhoron,” I breathe out, tears filling my eyes quickly as I try not to buckle under all the memories that had come rushing back in like a door that had just been shoved in.

Zhoron’s entire frame sags with relief, his wings becoming crestfallen behind him as he quickly pulls me back into him. This time I hug him back, squeezing him so tight I hear his muscles strain. My tears fall faster as I cling to him, not willing to ever let him go again.

“By Ythene’s Hand you are a fool,” he chides, his tone as sharp and strict as ever, but I could feel the wetness of his tears in my hair. “How could you ensnare me when you had no idea what it would do to you?!”

His words are no longer lost to me as my mind filters in Therzya, our common tongue. With the language blinders gone, I think back to what he’d been saying earlier, having no trouble understanding his sprouted words of me being an idiot, but one that he loved. That Ythene would have to bury me herself once he was done with me. That he’d never forgive me or let go of again.

I smile, it shakes and wobbles and threatens to fall apart, but I still smile against him.

It was strange, staring at him with all my memories in tack that didn’t mix with the ones I had before. It felt like my two lives, or rather two separate worlds, were trying to bleed together again.

Zhoron continues to curse me, scolding me as if we hadn’t been apart for decades before he finally pulls back, revealing a face streaked by black lines while he takes my face in hand.

“Truly, Zani. You must never do that again,” his voice grows just a little softer, white eyes becoming haunted as he dips his head a little. “You should not have-” Zhoron releases a shuddering breath, “it would’ve been better for me to endure-”

“You always endured,” I snap back as I face his bleached eyes, the ones that always made everything with life run away, but not me. “I wanted to do something for once! I would do it again, all of it, for you!”

White eyes sharpening, Zhoron studies me carefully, his wings slowly pulling tighter around us as if he was preparing to shield us from a threat.

“What did you endure, Zani,” he asks very carefully, voice rotting.

I drop my gaze, not knowing how to share all that had happened. Even as I remembered everything now, my life with Lincoln still felt just as real as my childhood in Ythene’s realm, as did all the time I’d spent in that slave house.

The slave house. All that time, I was suffering because of my own decisions.

I’d always thought somebody had abandoned me, left me alone in that dark place, but the truth was I’d done it to myself. I didn’t go to the slave house, I never wanted that, but I’d taken away any chance I could’ve had at avoiding it.

I wanted to hate myself, but I couldn’t because it was for Zhoron, and if he were okay, then it would always be worth it.

“I will slay any who remain,” he vows suddenly while the skies around us circled, darkening as his anger got a hold of them. “Death has always been my friend, and I am eager to reacquaint myself with it.”

I hadn’t said a word, but Zhoron had always been good at reading my face, at spotting any pain and eliminating the source of it.

My chest warms knowing his words to be true, “You can barely stand.”

Zhoron doesn’t say anything, not that he needed to. I could remember him fighting, all the times I’d glimpsed him at work and then in the final battle.

Everything died when Zhoron was near.

He was the strongest of us, and even if he were on his knees, Diablos wouldn’t stand a chance.

“You need to rest,” I say as I look him over, seeing the way his arms trembled just a little.

“I do not need rest,” Zhoron sneers as if he were offended, “and I won’t allow us to part even a step from this place until you swear an oath that you will never do such a foolish thing again.”

“Zhor-”

“I will have nothing else but your word,” Zhoron declares, his steady voice leaving no room for discussion, “You must swear it, Zani. Right now.”

“I swear it,” I promise even though I knew in my heart that I’d sacrifice myself every time for Zhoron, no matter what we promised.

If Zhoron knew that, he chose not to say anything about it as he tries to stand on his own, his wings trembling slightly behind him, but they still once he takes a deep breath that causes the dark patch beneath his feet to spread.

I could feel him sucking the life from the Earth, bleeding the life around him dry until there was nothing left to them but a chance to rot, but I didn’t worry even though it hurt to see because I knew I was the one who would give it back to them.

That’s how it worked, how it was supposed to work. I was the light and Zhoron the darkness, the ‘angel’ and he the ‘demon.’

“I don’t need rest,” he repeats, voice firmer now as he straightens, “Now, either you show me how to craft this small body, or you shed this feeble skin so that we can-”

Zhoron’s words cut off as something ripples through the dirt beneath us, a wave of magic that could only be elven, and there was only one other elf on this planet.

Aias.

--------------------

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I HAVE BEEN LOSING MY SHIT ALLLLLL WEEK WRITING THIS LIKE AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thoughts?????!!?!!??!

Thoughts on Kalem’s memory burst, his breakdown at the start, finding Zhoron the other NYphilim who was his brother!!!!

SO many people guessed that it’s not even funny. But honestly, I originally planned for Kalem to find Zhoron’s corpse with like a letter that would unlock his other side and memories yadada, but my baby has suffered enough and I like this plotline more

I know this was A LOT to take in and probably is confusing as fuck, but it should all make sense by the end of the book if you’re lost.

I’ve already claimed Zhoron, so don’t even try, that find, dark nigga is mine. Lmfao.

If you’ve got any immediate questions, ask them here, and I’ll answer if they’re not a spoiler.

I know you guys are HATING the cliffhangers, but we’re at that point in the book that almost every chapter is crazy monumental. So like I just have to keep going, sorry!

Patreon is up next as we approach the end of the month, but I’ll be updating Master soon, hopefully since I’ve already started the next chapter hehe.

Vote and comment if you enjoyed! I really hope you guys enjoyed!

Until next time,
Byeeeeeeeeee Humanssssssssssss

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