In a village far removed from the nearest neighbor, lies an old, abandoned cathedral. Its windows lie broken on the ground, its doors hang like leaves on the wind. A lonely raven has made a nest in the highest tower, the only living being that dared to enter the cathedral in aeons.
It’s a lovely morning and the raven caws its hello to the world, then peeks down from its nest and tilts its head sideways. It’s seeing something it has never seen before. A human, with its light hair dancing in the morning wind, is walking towards the cathedral with a small backpack and a walking staff in hand. The human stops in front of the doors, leans its staff against the old walls, and sits down. The raven tilts its head sideways again. It wonders what in the world is going on and what is that creature doing here. The human takes its backpack down from its back and opens it up. It picks up an old tome and opens it. The raven looks at the pages and its small animal brain is filled with images of teeth, blood, and dead. It caws loudly and flees as fast as it can, never to return again.
On the ground, Emily Maple, a young scholar and student of the occult arts, flips through her book that she got so many years ago. She traces her finger along with the old, crumpling pages, feels the rough surface of the paper that eons up eons have caused the paper to have. She reads the words again, though she wouldn’t - she knows them by heart by now, but reading the tome has always calmed Emily’s heart.
She looks to be in her mid-twenties, give or take a few years. Her light hair is fine and curls ever so slightly among itself. It’s flowing freely in the wind, all its near-shoulder length that she wishes so much would be more, but alas, it won’t grow longer. Her amber eyes are half-closed as she reads the book half from memory, half from the pages. She closes the book and her eyes, putting her hand on top of the old tome. She takes a deep breath and opens her eyes, looking towards the old cathedral’s doors.
“I’m finally here…”, she says barely aloud. Her voice is warm and carries with it years of wishes and hard work. “After ten years, I’m finally here… ten years..”, she says, “Ten years, but it feels like just yesterday that I was working as a novice in the tower, working for the Old Master in his library…” Emily stares in the distance, clearly lost in reminiscing about years past. In her head, opens a scene. A musty old dimly lit library. An old man, back bent with age, beard as long as the years in his eyes. A raised finger.
“Make sure you do your job properly, young lass!”, the old man says. He shakes his finger and waves it around in front of her. “And do not touch the books on the black shelf! This is important, child!” He says and makes an angry face.
“Yes, master”, young Emily says and curtsies coyly. “I’ll remember it, Master” She starts taking books out of her basket that she carries under her arm, and puts them back into the shelves in the correct order. The old man watches her for a while. Then he grunts, nods at her, and turns around. Walks through the door and disappears from the memory. Young Emily keeps working and occasionally glances towards the forbidden black shelf. How she wishes she’d know the secrets behind those books, but she’s too afraid. Not of the books, but the old man. He’s a strict master and won’t tolerate failure. Emily has worked for two years to be accepted into the tower and now that she’s finally here, she’s not going to get herself outed just because she got a tiny bit curious.
Young Emily puts the last book in its place. She turns around and smiles happily at her accomplishment. She takes one final glance towards the black bookshelf and… there’s a glow. There’s a glow from a book! Emily walks closer, entranced. Her hand reaches out for the books. She looks around. This feels weird, she thinks. A glowing book? That doesn’t sound like anything I should touch, but… It’s not on the black shelf! She glances towards the black shelf, its books deadly silent and non-glowing. But the bookshelf next to her, the one with old myths and stories, fables, and perhaps even a true account here and there. Emily grabs the book. It feels warm to the touch. There’s a picture of a roaring dragon on the cover of the book. The book’s name is written in ancient runes that Young Emily didn’t know what they meant. There are three of them. Large, intricate designs adorned with shining silver. A-YA-KA, they spell out. Emily learned this a few years afterward from a different book. Young Emily’s fingers wrap around the book, her heart beating faster and faster. She lifts the book and holds it against her chest. From this moment on, Emily never went anywhere without it. She would look at the picture of the Dragon every night and little by little she learned to read the book and uncovered something in it, that laid hidden on the pages, for aeons on end.
“And now, I’m finally here”, Emily says and squeezes the old book. She puts in gently back into her backpack, lifts it on her back, and grabs her walking staff. “Well, there’s nothing to it then, but go forward!”, she says loudly and raises the staff towards the cathedral. With light steps, she walks towards it and through the age-old door.
Somewhere, deep and deep beneath the cathedral, something stirs in its ageless sleep. Scales shift, claws clatter, wings fold. Sleep is coming to an end.
Minutes turn into hours, hours turn into days. Emily walks downwards and ever downwards through ancient pathways and half-rotten stairs. Carrying enough food for days still, and a flask full of water, she’s not scared but determined. The place is damp and smells musty, but there are places where water bubbles through the floors or walls. Fresh, clear, and cold, Emily has filled her flask many times already. Finding the first spring lifted her spirits considerably, as now her only worry is rationing her food. She still has a week left to go downwards. After that, she needs to turn back so she doesn’t run out of food until she reaches the surface again.
Emily makes camp for the day. She puts her backpack on the ground and spreads out her bedroll. Eating just a pinch from her supplies, she lies on her back. Her hands find their way onto her chest, her pendant. She pulls it out and stares at it. A jewel, bright as day, white as fresh snow hangs from a silvery chain. She looks at it and smiles. “My secret.”, she says grinning at the pendant. “You are what all the others have lacked. You’re my secret weapon against the machinations of fate.” She slides the pendant back under her shirt and pats it gently, then closes her eyes and falls asleep.
Two days later, Emily stops in front of a massive door. She looks at it with her eyes glinting in the dim light of her torch. Her heart beats impossibly fast as she recognizes the three large runes atop the metal door. “This is it! I’m here!”, she mutters to herself. With a shaking hand, she touches the door gently, its cold metal surface sending shivers through her hand. She closes her eyes and pushes the door. It makes a sound like someone drawing a long, thin metal rod through a rough part of stone. The sound echoes through the walls and halls.
Deep within the chamber behind the door, an eye opens. An eye that has not seen the light of day for more than an age. An eye that has seen few mortals enter the chamber, and seen none of them leave, ever. An eye that is roughly three times the height of the very frail and defenseless being that is currently pushing open the only barrier between her and certain death. The eye focuses on the door. It opens, and a mortal steps into the dimly lit, almost totally dark chamber. A chamber where none who entered have ever been able to leave, including the bearer of the eye. A massive body shifts in the deep darkness of the chambers. Scales rough out stone and rotting wood as they move. From far above the mortal, a huge head observes.
“WHEREFORE HAST THOU COME TO DISTURB MY SLEEP, MORTAL?” A voice sounds through the chamber. A voice as old as history itself. A voice filled with millennia of knowledge and wisdom. A voice that has not been heard above the ground since the shattering of the world.
“Uhm.. excuse me for trespassing..”, Emily says nervously. “I have come to find the Great One, who once dwelled above, on the lands when stars only shone where the sun now sits.”
“DOST THOU SEEKETH DEATH, MORTAL?”, the voice says. It sounds curious, not threatening, to Emily.
“I do not.”, Emily says clearly.
“WHEREFORE ART THOU NOT AFRAID OF ME, MORTAL?”, the voice asks, even more curious now than before.
“Seriously? I have worse nightmares about failing the old man’s history lessons…”, Emily says. “No, I do not fear you. I’ve come on behalf of Tharenan the Great, a sage of the Old World. I’ve come to demand that the Vows of Binding be given to me, Emily Maple, of Starwood Haven.”, she says out loud and clear, then adds under her breath “Why would I fear you, my love? You, who I have loved for so long already…”
“THARENAN?”, the old voice says, taken aback. “VOWS OF BINDING? SO THOU HAST COME TO ENSLAVE ME? ME? THE GREAT ONE! A DRAGON OF THE OLD WORLD! WHY DOST THOU THINK THOU ART WORTHY OF SUCH HONOR?”
“Because I hold The Light of the Heavens!”, Emily says and pulls out her pendant. The jewel shines like the sun and lights the chamber brightly. Emily squints her eyes from the brightness. The light reveals the massive scaled body of the ancient Wyrm. Its head is the size of Emily’s house, its eye the size of her room. The scales of the dragon glitter in all the colors of the rainbow on a silvery surface. “So beautiful…”, Emily whispers. “I’ve waited so long for this moment, my—“
“THARENAN’S STAR!”, the voice exclaims loudly and the dragon’s face distorts in confusion. “HOW IS IT POSSIBLE?” The dragon’s body shines brightly for a second, then disappears entirely. The massive chamber lies totally empty and echoes bounce along the walls in the distance. From the darkness, emerges another form. A regal woman, not totally unlike Emily. A head taller and clearly more adult than the soft young woman is. The newcomer’s hair is brilliant silver, glittering in all the colors of the rainbow, and her eyes are the deep blue of a bottomless ocean. She has a tiny scar under her left eye, like a claw mark. She walks to Emily and stops a couple of yards in front of her.
“What business do you have here, then, mortal?”, she asks. Her voice is full and beautiful. It still carries in it the wisdom of the ages, but now it’s clear and bright.
“The Vows of Binding, Great One” Emily says and stares at her with a straight face.
“You’re still after those?”, the dragon asks, irritated. “Did you honestly travel through stone and darkness just to make me your slave?! I can give you treasures untold, or power beyond your wildest imagining! I can make you the envy of all mortal and the target of lust for everyone, men and women alike. Would you not rather take that?”
“The Vows of Binding, Great One” Emily repeats and bites her lip.
“Fine!” The dragon spits out angrily. “If that is all you want! To enslave the oldest being and control the Noble One. I grant you your wish, you can have it. I hereby transfer the Vows of Binding to you, to the object of power you hold in your hands. If you ever let go of it, you will lose everything. The holder of that jewel will forever have the power over the Vows of Binding!”, she speaks out in a full, commanding voice. The jewel in Emily’s hand grows impossibly bright and radiates warmth around it.
Emily smiles triumphantly and raises the pendant above herself. “I nearby accept the terms and bind this power within this jewel. Let it be clear that anyone who holds this jewel will command the full power of the Vows of Binding, including the ability to reinforce.. or break them.” She says and smiles warmly at the dragon.
“Stupid mortals… even power is not enough for them, all they want is to— what?”, she says and takes a step backward. Emily has walked next to her. “Ready to command me…mistress?”, the dragon says mockingly.
“Yes, yes I am.”, Emily says with a triumphant face. “As my first command, I order you to take this”, she says and holds her hand at her.
The dragon tilts her head slightly and raises an eyebrow. “What is.. ‘this’?”, she asks. Unable to disobey a direct order though, she holds her hand, palm upwards towards her.
To the great surprise of the dragon, Emily drops the pendant on her hand. Then she closes the dragon’s hand over the jewel and squeezes it close with her own. “For whoever holds this jewel…”, she says and looks straight into the eyes of the dragon. “From Emily Maple of Starwood Haven, accept this gift from me. Let it now and forever be yours to do as you wish.”, she says and smiles gently at her.
The dragon stares at Emily with her mouth hanging open. The glow from inside her closed hand grows brighter and her hand feels hot to the touch. “THOU… THOU GIVETH TO ME THINE MOST PRECIOUS…?”, she asks in a voice that’s a mix of the massive voice of the old dragon and the bright and full voice of the woman she is now. “THOU WOULDST GIVETH TO ME THAT WHAT THOU SO FERVENTLY WISHED…?”
“I never said that was what I wanted, my love,” Emily says and smiles at her gently. “You are now freed from the shackles of fate.”
“WHY…?”, the woman asks. “WHY DOST THOU…? THOU HAST WORKED TEARS AND BLOOD TO REACH THIS PLACE, YET THOU WOULDST GIVETH IT ALL AWAY…?”
“No”, Emily says. “I didn’t give away anything that I wanted to keep myself.”
“SO WHEREFORE, THEN?”, the woman says. “THOU HAST GOTTEN NOTHING OUT OF THIS AND GIVEN ME… EVERYTHING. I AM FOREVER IN YOUR DEBT, but nothing binds me to thee any more.”
“No”, Emily repeats. She steps forwards and takes the woman’s hands into hers. “I got exactly what I wanted… Ayaka”, She says.
The dragon looks at her with shock on her face, her pupils shrink to nothingness and she slumps down onto the floor. As the countless millennia old magics evaporate and a name that no living being has uttered in more than a gross of lifetimes echoes in the old halls, Emily kneels beside her and strokes her hair with her fingers.
“Rest now, my love. You are now free. I’ve done what I can, the rest is up to you
A few hours later, on one corner of the spacious chamber that until very recently imprisoned an ancient dragon. The chamber now feels cold, empty. There’s no presence or scales anymore. Just emptiness. It smells dank and murky. It’s no home for anybody anymore. In that corner burns a small fire. Flames purifying the rotting wood. Flames that radiate warmth and light. Two figures sit hurdled over the small flame. A shorter, more delicate one, wearing an old cloak with the hood pulled up and a strand of blonde hair swirling from the depths of the hood. She’s looking intently at the taller figure who is deep in thought. Her amber eyes look like dim embers in the darkness. The taller figure has hair of pure silver that glints in myriad tones in the light of the flickering flame. Her clear blue eyes glitter and reflect the dancing flame. A small shadow dances below her left eye, the light is caressing an old scar there. She’s dressed in noble clothing, a cloak of pure midnight blue, and clothes of the finest silks and satins. The runes in the clothes are not magical, but they might as well be for none have been alive for ages that could have read what they said.
“So let me get this straight”, the taller figure says. “You once read a book and decided to do research for a tenth of your life, spent almost as long scourging through every dangerous location that you knew, spent all your belongings going after rumors, and finally ended up here on a chance?”
“That’s about it”, the shorter figure says. “There was a bit more to it, but that’s basically it.”
“Why?”, the taller figure asks and turns to look at the smaller one, who smiles warmly at her.
“Because I know from the moment my fingers touched the old tome, that this was what I was meant for. I read the book that told about you so many times I can recite it from memory. You could say that I have loved you from the bottom of my heart since I was a teen, Ayaka.”, the shorter figure says and reaches out and touches the one called Ayaka on her shoulder.
“And then there’s that!”, Ayaka says “How did you learn about my name? I’ve never told a soul of my name, Emily Maple of Starwood Haven.”
“Just ‘Emily’ is fine, Ayaka.”, Emile says and smiles gently at her. “Well about that.. the book was titled by those same intricate runes that adorn this chamber’s entrance outside. I did not know at that time how to pronounce them, but I did learn to write your name.”
She strokes her chin and looks into the distance. “I’m not entirely sure where I got the names for the runes, but I know that one by one I found what sound they represented, and then I combined them to for A-YA-KA. To be fair, I was not one hundred percent sure it was your name. It might have been a title or a description, but I figured it was important enough and I went with that.”, she says and turns to look at Ayaka. She grins at her. “But it worked!”, she says happily.
“There’s one thing I don’t understand though… Why?”, Ayaka says. “Why go to all that trouble? What’s your end goal?”
“Well, to be perfectly fair… this.”, Emily says and gestures towards Ayaka.
“This?”, she says and looks at herself.
“Yeah... I wanted to.. free you, save you if you will. I don’t know if you even have feelings like us mortals do, but that’s enough for me. To know you’re not bound here for all eternity. To know that you’re free to… to go where you want. I can’t say I wish you’d want to be by my side, but I don’t want that to be because of any external vows or bindings or curses.”, Emily says and smiles awkwardly.
“You are a strange creature, Emily”, Ayaka says.
“That’s probably true”, Emily says and grins at her.
“We do have them”, Ayaka says quietly. “But it’s a bit different for us…”, she lets the sentence trail out and looks into the distance.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—“, Emily says and lifts her hand towards her.
“No, it isn’t anything you—“, Ayaka says and turns towards Emily. She accidentally bumps into her. Emily’s finger brushes her cheek lightly and Ayaka flinches involuntarily. “You see, the gods played a nasty trick on us…”, she says and looks at Emily and her eyes soften.
“What do you mean? I read somewhere that you fought the gods and won, and that’s why there are no gods in this world anymore?”, Emily says.
“That’s true, from a certain point of view.”, Ayaka says. “You see, the gods had the last laugh. They left before we defeated them for good and they cursed us.”
“Cursed? I didn’t read anything like that anywhere?”, Emily says and looks concerned.
“That’s because we didn’t tell anyone”, Ayaka says.
“Can you tell me someday?”, Emily asks her.
“I will tell you one day, not too far from now. When we’re out of here.”, Ayaka says with a strange certainty in her voice.
“That’s enough for me”, Emily says and stands up. “Speaking of getting out of here, it’s time we get up and start walking. It’s going to be days before we reach the surface. Unless you somehow regained all your powers already…?”
“You knew…?!”, Ayaka says and gasps.
“Yeah, when the Vows got broken you lost almost all of your powers. They’ll gradually come back, yes?”, Emily says.
“Yeah, gradually… I don’t know how fast though, I’ve never lost them before…”, Ayaka says uncertainly.
“Yeah, well, you have time.”, Emily says and throws her backpack onto her back. “Let’s go, we’ve got some stairs to climb.”
They walk out of the massive door and the chamber lies silent and dark. Its inhabitant has left and there’s nothing in it anymore. In time, it’ll crumble and fall, never to be remembered again by any living thing.
A couple of days later, they have stopped for rest in a smaller room. The walls are stained, the floor overgrown, the door slanted. It’s damp and cold. The air smells of fungal spores and dead bugs. One of the walls has broken down considerably and a small stream of water runs in it. But the room has a door so that instantly makes it the best room available. It looks like it has once upon a time been a bedroom of sorts. There are traces of a bed and few pieces of rusted metal that look like they’ve once been part of some furniture.
Emily lies on her bedroll. She opens her eyes and sees Ayaka watching her intently. Ayaka turns her gaze away immediately when their gaze meets. Emily smiles at her. She sits up and scratches her head lightly. Her head has a bad case of bed hair, but when you are a mile deep in ancient dungeons leading the world’s most powerful being out of there, you just really don’t care about that.
Emily gets up and starts to remove her clothes. “I think I can use that small brook for washing”, she says. “It’s been a week since I washed properly and I’m starting to stink like this place. It’s going to be cold, but frankly, I don’t care.”, she says.
Ayaka turns away. Emily smiles at her. “Getting embarrassed there, Ayaka?”, she says and smiles playfully at her. “You can look, I don’t mind”, Emily says and drops her shirt on the floor. She stands up and grins at Ayaka’s back. She walks to the wall and touches the streaming water. It’s cold and she shivers from the very idea, but it’s still better than not doing it. Emily lathes her body with the water and scrubs herself all over with her hands. She throws a sideways glance at Ayaka. She’s sitting near their small fire and looking in her direction. Her cheeks are flushed red and her mouth’s partially open. Her deep blue eyes seem to be a little lighter and her pupils are large, like two great holes in the universe. Emily smiles and plays it up a bit. She turns sideways towards Ayaka and wets her hair, then moves downwards to her breasts. The cold water alone makes them pop up like small lollipops. Emily brushes her nipple with her finger. A small moan escapes her lips. She puts her finger on her lips, then licks it. She moves her finger downwards, first to her chin, then along her throat, and onto her chest. She makes a slight detour and rounds her nipple with it, then continues moving it downwards onto her belly. She arcs her back slightly and finally pushes her finger ever downwards. Emily moans softly as her finger touches her down below. She turns her head slightly and looks directly at Ayaka and licks her lips.
Ayaka stands up. Her blue eyes are a lighter color, like that of a sky. Her cheeks are red as an apple and a sweat drop falls down along the little scar under her left eye. Her silvery hair glitters in the dim room like stars in the sky. She walks towards Emily and drops her clothes while walking, without skipping a step. Emily’s eyes go wide at both the style of how she does it and what’s underneath. While Emily is not shapeless by any stretch of the word, Ayaka is definitely more curved than her. Emily’s features are soft and cute, her boobs perky, her butt round. Ayaka’s are far more striking and accentuated. Ayaka walks straight with a swaying walk and pushes Emily against the stained wall. She slams her hand next to Emily’s head and looks directly at her eyes.
“LITTLE GIRL…”, Ayaka says with a low, breathy voice. “YOU KNOW NOT WHAT YOU ARE DOING. IT WOULD BE BETTER FOR CHILDREN TO—“, Ayaka says and then yelps loudly as Emily plants her lips on her breast and sucks on it. At the same time, Emily wraps her hands around Ayaka’s butt and pulls her close. Ayaka’s breath quickens and her legs shiver. “Child…”, she says and grabs onto Emily and pulls her tightly against her. “…if you wish to…”, Ayaka breathes out quietly, pulls slightly away and grabs Emily’s chin in her hand, then lifts it up and looks straight into her eyes “…continue, you’d better be ready for the consequences.”
Emily smiles at her gently, throws her hands around Ayaka’s neck, and pulls her close to a passionate kiss. They lean onto the wall, the water from the brook running down their head, down their cheeks and necks. Along their bodies and onto the floor. The room fills with the sounds of heavy breathing, moans and yelps and wet bodies being squeezed together in lust and love.
The next morning, Emily wakes up and opens her eyes to see Ayaka sleeping next to her, closely wrapped beside her on her bedroll. She smiles and strokes her cheek. Ayaka opens her eyes slightly. She smiles wickedly at Emily. “Good morning, wife”, she says and stresses the last word.
“Good morning, wife”, Emily says and kisses her on the forehead. Ayaka opens her mouth, closes it and then opens it again. She tries to say something, but no words come out.
“Buh…”, she manages. She blinks a couple of times and looks at the smiling Emily. “That… that didn’t surprise you at all?” she asks, her eyes big as a plate.
“I told you, my love”, Emily says and pokes Ayaka’s cheek with her finger. “I spent a decade or so researching everything about you. And somewhere down the line I learned about your marriage rituals and bonding. You are now bound to me, right? Literally until death does us a part?” she says and smiles tenderly at Ayaka.
“Mh”, Ayaka mumbles and nods. “As are you to me, my wife”, she says and looks downwards. “Our hearts, our souls are now bound for all ages of the world. From this day on, if either of us dies by wound or foe, the other will surely fall and follow.”, she says and looks at Emily under her brows. “Only death by time will deliver either of our souls from this bond.” She casts her eyes to the ground again. “Is this what you wanted? You changed one kind of bond to another? I’m still bound to you, jewel or not. You did come here to enslave me! Why, mortal?”
“I did not!”, Emily almost spats out. “Look, the vows bound you here, I wanted to set you free. This other bond… if I could have done it one-sided, I would have. I’d have bound myself to you, but that’s not how it works. The binding of souls is a two-way deal.”, she says gently. “Buy Ayaka—”
“And that! You know my true name too! There’s naught I can deny you, this is almost the same as those blasted vows that bound me to that chamber…”, Ayaka says and throws a small stone against the wall. Part of the wall crumples down and another small stream of water bursts out from it.
“Dearest…”, Emily says and touches Ayaka under her chin. She lifts it up with her finger and looks straight into her deep blue eyes. “What you think I will hold from you and keep secret, I will give you freely out of my own will.”, she says and takes Ayaka’s hand into hers and pulls her closer. She places Ayaka’s hand on her own chest and then puts her own hand on top of it. “Xayta”, she says and looks deep into Ayaka’s eyes.
“Saita?”, Ayaka says, her eyebrows raised. “What’s that?”
“No. XA-Y-TA”, Emily repeats and watches Ayaka’s eyes grow large and her mouth open when she understands what Emily is saying to her.
“Xayta”, Ayaka says. Emily is entirely unprepared for what happens when another being utters your true name aloud. Her toes curl, her back arcs backwards, her mouth opens fully and her breath escapes. She thrusts her hands blindly to her side and tries to gasp for air. Her vision blurs and she feels hot and sweaty in every part of her body. “Xayta”, Ayaka repeats and Emily cries out in ecstasy, her eyes roll up and her legs give out. Blood flows to parts of her body and she moans loudly. Her eyes flash open, they are bright yellow and her pupils are no larger than pinpricks.
“A…ya…ka. Now… I need… Now!”, she manages to say, almost pleading and screaming. She falls into Ayaka’s hands and buries her face between her breasts. Ayaka smiles at her and kisses the back of her head, then pulls her upwards.
“Consequences…”, she says and smiles at Emily. Emily wraps her hands around Ayaka’s neck weakly and worms closer to her. Ayaka touches her neck with her fingertip and then moves it downwards along her back. Emily arcs her back backwards and falls down to the bedroll. Ayaka grins at her and puts her hand on Emily’s belly, then pulls it down. When her fingers brush gently the insides of her legs, Emily cries out and wraps her legs around Ayaka. Ayaka climbs on top of her. “I told you about the consequences, little girl…”, she says and licks her lips. She kisses Emily’s bellybutton and moves downwards from there, kiss by kiss.
A few hours later, they are back on track walking up uncounted stairs. Emily’s cheeks are slightly red and not just from effort. “I’m sorry, Ayaka, I didn’t know it would have that… effect on me.”, she says.
Ayaka smiles at her. “Neither did I. Never did learn any mortal’s true names before. Actually didn’t think you’d even have one, considering … but, apparently you do, and it has a noticeable effect on you. Hopefully this will not become a big problem for you… Xayta”, she says and grins widely at her. Emily almost falls over as her knees buckle and her lungs empty.
“Ayaka!”, she yells and turns around. “I asked you not to use that name when we’re not… uh… not… anyway, don’t use it normally!”, she says, turns back and continues climbing the stairs.
“You’re using mine, though”, Ayaka says.
“You have a point there”, Emily says and strokes her chin. “What should I call you when we’re among other people?”
“I have never had any other names. Titles, hierarchy and homes were used. Sir knight. The Minister. The Rivertownian.”, Ayaka says and looks into the distance, remembering ages past. “You may call me whatever you wish, wife.”
“Aya, then.” Emily says, stops and turns around. “I’ll call you wife and love and dearest when it’s appropriate, and Ayaka when we’re alone. But with others, I’ll call you Aya. Is that okay?”, she asks.
“Aya…”, Ayaka says. A slight blush rises on her cheeks and she smiles without meaning to. “Aya”, she repeats. “I guess that’s alright…”, she says, lost in her thoughts.
“Aya it is, then!”, Emily says and smiles. “You can call my Emily, or Emi, which ever you like.”
They continue climbing the stairs, both smiling happily.
A few days later, Emily gets increasingly excited. She seems to have more energy than before, although they are running low on rations. It’s been a day since they last saw fresh water and they are dangerously low on that too, yet Emily seems happier.
“Emily. What is it? Although I don’t need sustenance in the amounts you require, now that I’m unbound I still need to eat now and then. We’re almost out of food, Emily.”, Ayaka says while they have stopped for a small break. “We’re also running low of water, but you seem to be doing better than ever?”, she says.
“That because I know these stairs, Aya.”, Emily says and points upwards. “We’re only hours from reaching the surface and our freedom.”
“World above…”, Ayaka says and turns her gaze upwards where Emily pointed. “It’s been a while…”
“Come, Aya! Let’s hurry so we can get out of here and get home!”, Emily says excitedly.
“Home?”, Ayaka asks and raises her eyebrow at Emily.
“Yeah.. We have a home, a small and cozy building in a quiet little town…”, Emily says and trails off into distant thoughts.
“We…?”, Ayaka asks, surprised.
“Yes. You’re my wife now, Aya. I’ve had our home ready for us for years now. It was all or nothing for me, this trip. Either I was coming home with you, or I would not be coming home at all.”, Emily says.
“You really did go all out… and all for me? Really?”, Ayaka says.
“All for you, my love…”, Emily says, then she perks up and almost runs up the stairs. “Come! Aya! Come, come! I can smell the wind and the sea! We’re close!”, she yells.
They hurry up the stairs the last hour or so, and then arrive at the dusty cathedral halls. It’s dark outside when they walk out of the door. The stars are shining and the sky is clear. Ayaka wanders outside, looking upwards with her eyes wide open, her mouth parted. She walks along the narrow path and stares at the stars with wonder in her eyes. Emily follows her closely, smiling and looking at her astonished wife seeing stars for the first time in recorded history. Those eyes that have only seen the darkness of the stone for such a long time, are now free to travel under the sky as they wish.
Far beyond the horizon, the sky is getting lighter and a promise of a new day begins to dawn. Emily walks to Ayaka and takes her hand. She pulls her close and presses a light kiss on her lips. “Aya”, she says and looks smiling into her eyes. “Let’s go home.”