Chapter 10 The Goddess of Nerys
I suppose it wasn’t completely accurate to say that I had fallen unconscious. My mind was still active, but my vision, dark. I could feel Daiva’s arms around me as she carried me back to the Rhiannon. I began walking amidst the darkness when a sound greeted my ears: Music. It was an unfamiliar tune, so much so that I could not even discern what instrument upon which it was played. Despite this music’s foreign quality, I knew that if I found its origin, something incredible would happen. I ran through the darkness, my body having no ailments in this world.
As I ran, the distant melody began to fade until I was left wandering in the dark. The sweet melody was suddenly replaced with the horrifying screams of men, women, and children alike. Of course this was Nerys. It was far more terrible than I imagined. No sky and no sign of any light, it was indeed a world of utter darkness and despair. My only hope was that lone melody that grew more and more distant. I continued running, trying to find it. I suddenly felt a hand caress my face. I trembled in fear, but there was nothing before me. I recognized the hand as Mary’s. Daiva must have returned to the Rhiannon. I felt her release me, laying me gently on one of the beds. It was a strange sensation, as I was still standing in Nerys. Now I could feel Edith’s hand as well. Someone embraced my neck. Daiva perhaps? I wished desperately that they would pull me out of this horrifying place.
Suddenly, I was blinded by a bright, red light. Tremors shook the ground beneath me. I looked down to find that the floor was somewhat transparent. Beneath me was a vortex of endless darkness. At its center was row upon row of teeth. Its mouth was the source of the red light. It was that vile crystal, nerysite, and this horrifying creature was its source. I then realized that this monster was the source of the Gaelturi’s power!
Amidst the darkness, the thing spoke to me in its incomprehensible tongue. That guttural tone was unbearable! It threatened to tear my mind apart. I fell to my knees, gripping my head in pain. It was laughing at me. That cruel sound racked my body! As I felt my mind slowly collapsing into insanity, I suddenly awakened.
Edith and Mary were holding my hands while Daiva had her arms around my waist. I found myself breathing in great gasps of air, my entire body coated in sweat. They continued staring at me, their eyes filled with anxiety.
“Thank God . . .” Edith whimpered, her voice wet with tears.
She embraced me and I smiled, relieved to have escaped that maddening world.
“What happened to you, Conrad?” Mary asked, her grip tightening around my hand.
I attempted to sit up, but they restrained me.
“Just lay down, Conrad. What happened?” She asked, this time calmer than before.
I spoke after I had caught my breath. “I believe that I was in Nerys. Tell me, did I scream at all while unconscious?” I asked curiously.
“You were in Nerys, and yes, you do this . . . screaming very loudly.” Daiva said, still clinging to my waist. “Are you feeling better, now?”
I stared at her in awe.
Is that what Daiva experiences every time she falls asleep? There was no rest for her indeed!I was astonished by the fact that she witnessed such horrors every day.
“I am fine. Thank you. Unfortunately, it seems that another issue has arisen on this dreadful rock: Water.” I said and forced myself up into a sitting position. “We must find some way to distill that water from whatever agent that induced such trauma upon my mind.”
“Perhaps the Gaelturi will have potable water!” Edith said hopefully.
“I took a drink from the lake as well, Conrad,” said Daiva timidly. “It did not harm me. I doubt that the Gaelturi will need imported water.”
I laughed amusedly. “Importing water! What a thought!”
“What about the water in the reactor’s cooling chamber?” Mary suggested.
I gasped. “That’s brilliant, Mary!” I yelled and ran to the reactor in the back of the room. The reactor was off, though I could hear the water churning within its hull.
“Wouldn’t that be even more dangerous?” Edith asked nervously.
“Perhaps, but we have no other choice.” Mary said sternly. “We’ll have to ration the water. Once it’s depleted, we’ll fill the chamber with water from the lake in order to keep the reactor from overheating.”
“I suppose that will have to do.” I sighed, for that was only the beginning of our worries. “The next issue is obviously our fatigue. We cannot fight the Gaelturi in this state. We’ll have to find some way to stimulate our bodies.”
Edith laughed. “What happened to adapting?”
I smirked at her. “We cannot wait with such a limited amount of water, and who knows what the plants will do to us if we attempt to consume them as well? Food is another issue that we must resolve.”
The three women bore disgruntled expressions, telling me that they were as clueless as I was, concerning our problems. A great weariness came over me as my body continued to be drained of its strength. I fell back onto the bed and sighed.
“We are spent. We must rest . . . That includes you, Daiva. Perhaps our strength will return tomorrow.” I said as I removed the coat given to me by the Mother and handed it to Edith. She walked over to my desk and hung it over the chair. As she did this, a tiny crystal fell out of its pocket and onto the floor. Edith knelt down and grabbed it, holding the vile thing up to her eye.
“Is that the nerysite fragment you took from Gael’s ship?” Mary asked in shock.
I nodded, turning my attention to Edith as she intently observed the wretched gem.
“That is it! Conrad, if you all are to cutting me with that crystal, you will each be receiving some of my power! Then, you all will not be struggling so much!” Daiva said excitedly, and thrust out her forearm, offering her blood without hesitation.
I grimaced and stared at her arm, bare to the shoulder. “I may be desperate, but not so as to resort to such occult practices. We’ll find another way.” I said flatly.
“But Conrad, that would work!” Mary exclaimed. “Daiva has an unlimited source of power! She’ll be fine!”
“Go ahead, Mary, but I refuse to feed off of Daiva like some leech.” I said, crossing my arms.
She shrugged and took the crystal fragment from Edith. Gripping the shard, she slashed Daiva’s upper forearm, revealing her silvery blood. The essence of Nerys began flowing out of the wound and into Mary. She cringed immediately. It seemed to be hurting her far worse than it did Daiva who bore a look of great concern. Mary collapsed, her body unable to bear the weight of such power. I jumped out of the bed and ran over to her. She grabbed my hand and screamed in agony. What a pitiful sight!
Once the ritual was finished, I helped Mary to her feet. She seemed even weaker than before. She opened her eyes and I gasped; they had turned blood red!
“Mary, your eyes!” Daiva yelled, clasping her hands over her mouth.
“How do you feel, Mary?” I asked, trying to hide my anxiety.
“I’m fine . . . Just need some rest.” She murmured.
I laid her down onto the bed and she quickly fell asleep.
I sighed and leaned against the wall. “I believe we could all use some rest.”
“You two go ahead.” Daiva said. “I will keep looking around the area.”
“Fine. Just stay alert.” I said wearily and climbed up onto the second bunk.
I looked down at Edith. She was once again observing the nerysite fragment. She seemed to be in awe of it as she rolled it around in her palm. Finally, she sat it down on my desk and returned her attention to me.
“You should rest too, Edith.” I said sternly.
She nodded and, to my surprise, got in bed with Mary.
“Do you not wish to sleep with me?” I asked, baffled.
“Daiva needs your company, Conrad.” Edith laughed. “Besides, I doubt Mary will mind.”
Of course I knew that Daiva was most comfortable with me at present, but after our argument, I hadn’t expected Edith to be so accepting towards Mary. That night, I prayed for Mary, for I was genuinely concerned about her condition. I had no idea what would happen tomorrow. If the Gaelturi returned, we would be nearly powerless against them. Daiva held all my hope. If anyone could stop them, it was her. I also prayed for God’s will to be done, concerning the end of the human race. Perhaps this was our judgment.
“Even if we are to perish, is that such a bad thing?” I asked myself.
Obviously, I would make it back to the Reich some way or another, but nothing could be said for the fate of humanity. I decided that the best thing I could do for us all was get as much sleep as possible.
Just as I was drifting off, the door opened quietly and Daiva stepped into the room, looking no different from when she had left. She jumped up and landed softly onto the bed. She lay down, mostly on top of me since the bunk was so small.
“Did you find anything?” I whispered anxiously.
“I raided the Gaelturi outpost you spoke of. There were only being three men there. I found perhaps a week’s supply of food and some clothing.”
I was relieved to hear this, the only good news we had had since our arrival on this dreadful planet.
“You did well, Daiva. We would have never survived without you.” I said and put my arm around her.
She smiled bashfully and looked away.
The poor girl saved our lives and she doesn’t even have any shoes. I’m not sure why the thought came to me, but she had risked her life to save us. The least she deserved was a pair of shoes. There were some tools onboard that could be used for rudimentary tailoring. I decided that I could probably make something usable out of the clothing she had found.
Amidst my thoughts on my plans for the next day, my body was at last overcome with exhaustion and I fell into a deep sleep. I awoke with a start and gasped when I found myself in Nerys once again, however, something was different on this visit. Daiva had accompanied me! Though, she was quite different in this world. Her medical gown had been replaced by a black suit of armor along with a dress of chain mail. Even more interesting than this was that her hair had changed from starch white to a deep crimson. It was indeed strange to see her like this, and I began to question if it was actually her. The only reason I could even see her was the reddish glow that surrounded her body. It was the only source of light in that Hell. I attempted to sit up, but found that I could not as Daiva was still lying on top of me. I decided to let her sleep in order to spare her from the torture of Nerys.
Though, it was not quite so terrible, it was eerily quiet which unsettled my mind. That was how my original visit had begun after all. I wondered if we would be conscious in Nerys all throughout our rest.
It was a dreadful situation, but at least now we had each other’s company. Who knew how many nights Daiva had spent alone in Nerys? A few mere minutes had been enough to nearly destroy my mind. Thankfully, Daiva awoke without any difficulty. She looked up at me with her weary eyes and laughed amusedly.
“Well, I’d say that if I were a romantic woman, I would be quite pleased right now.” She said pleasantly.
I was shocked at how well she was speaking; nothing at all like the invalid I had thought her to be. Interestingly enough, her voice had changed as well. It possessed cunning and intelligence, hardly the voice of even that over-emotional, zealous girl she had previously been.
“Tell me, are you truly Daiva?” I asked, my gaze unwavering.
She yawned and lay back down on top of me.
“I am her, yes. This is simply my consciousness in Nerys. My power is much greater here; it rivals that of Nerys itself.” She said proudly.
“Then, are you some manner of god in this world?”
She laughed and shook her head.
“No, you could say that my role is that of a caretaker. I serve Nerys, but I also possess quite a bit of free will.”
“I see,” I glared at her, “so are you friend or foe?”
Daiva arose to her feet and held out her hand, “Friend.”
She helped me up and began leading me off into the darkness, refusing to release my hand.
“Where are you taking me?” I asked, still apprehensive on whether I should trust her.
“I have a small residence in Nerys. It is far from any horrifying phenomena you might have witnessed during your previous visit.” She smiled. “I’m sure you have many questions. You may ask them now.”
I nodded. “First, explain to me what has happened to you in my world.”
“That is simple, but first you must have a basic understanding of Nerys.”
“All right, then. I’m listening.”
“Nerys is a world of limitless power,” she began, stretching out her arms, “and it will share that power with anyone who feeds it by sacrificing a person’s soul.”
I grimaced at how callously she spoke of such a horror.
“The scientists of your world wish for you to think that the Gaelturi are merely stealing their souls in order to gain power, but they are in fact sacrificing them to Nerys.”
“I knew that they were nothing but a cult!” I exclaimed. “Though, how do we save these souls that Gael and his men have sacrificed? He just recently fed Nerys billions of them.”
“That is complicated . . .” She sighed. “In order to free their souls you must destroy Nerys itself.”
“And how does one accomplish that?”
She paused and thought for a moment.
“I suppose one would have to reach the Omega Point.” Daiva said, shrugging her shoulders.
“I see. Then does Gael intend to destroy Nerys? Has that been his plan all along?” I asked, quite intrigued.
“Gael has been deceived.” She laughed. “Nerys will never give him what he desires. He is being manipulated and in turn, he is manipulating others. That ritual he is trying to carry out will not ascend him to the Omega Point, but instead open a gateway for the Devourer to enter your world.”
I frowned. “I’m guessing that this Devourer was the creature I encountered earlier?”
“Yes, that is correct. It gains power with every soul it consumes,” she said gravely, “and if it is able to enter your world, it will become no different from Nerys, full of darkness and death.”
“So we must stop Gael and find some way to reach the Omega Point in order to destroy Nerys?” I asked.
“Gael must be stopped; there is no questioning that, but you do not necessarily have to destroy Nerys.” She smiled. “It is true that the souls of the Maidens would be lost forever, but humanity could start anew.”
I shook my head. “I will not accept that. Nerys must be destroyed.”
She displayed a sorrowful expression but managed to smile once more, this time with a degree of malignity.
“That is easier said than done.” She laughed richly. “Let me ask you this, Conrad: How can one attain paradise when they do not even know how to live? There is a fine line between surviving and living. In this state of turmoil, none of us will ever reach the Omega Point.”
Obviously, she was not going to give me a straight answer.
“Could you not destroy Nerys yourself?” I asked curiously. “You mentioned that your power matched it at least.”
Daiva sighed and looked down at herself. “I have served Nerys since the day I was born. I swore my allegiance to it and received its blessing. I am bound to this world. I cannot simply destroy it. It is a part of me.”
“What of Mary’s father? Does he not live on that highest plane of existence?” I asked, stroking my beard.
“There is no proof that he has actually reached the Omega Point. Though, if he has, how should I know his thoughts? Perhaps he sees no benefit in saving a race that will destroy themselves in the future?” She speculated.
As we continued our leisurely walk, I suddenly saw a light in the distance. We approached the luminescent object and several other lights came into view until my eyes beheld a dark mansion whose walls were lined with glowing nerysite crystals suspended in braziers. Daiva led me into the sinister manor and seated me in the parlor.
“Would you like some wine?” She asked presently. “It’s not every day I have guests, you know.”
“I can consume food and drink in this world? Is this not my consciousness roaming outside of my body?” I asked in shock.
“Your body exists both in your world and Nerys, just as mine does. Wait here I will return shortly.” Daiva said as she left the room.
Once she had left, I heard that strange melody once again. It was closer now, perhaps even somewhere within the house. I stood up from my chair and started to leave and explore the mansion when Daiva returned with a bottle of wine and two glasses.
“Is something troubling you, Conrad,” she asked concernedly.
“That music, don’t you hear it?” I whispered, my ears seeking out that alien sound.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t hear anything.” She said as she poured the wine. “Now, would you like a drink? We’ll have all night to spend together.”
I returned to my seat and took the glass. I sipped the dark liquid and its bitterness filled my body. I did not mind it as I took little pleasure in food and drink. Daiva drank as well, quite spiritedly as she was already pouring her second glass before we continued our conversation.
“You must excuse me.” She laughed and her face reddened. “The drink here is quite addictive. It heightens your senses.”
I quickly drank more of the wine and found myself able to more clearly perceive the music. I discerned that it was a violin. Of course it reminded me of Edith. As I was reminiscing over the music, Daiva began to speak.
“I suppose I should explain everything from the beginning.” She said, pouring more wine into my glass. “When I was born, I was chosen by Nerys to be its vessel in which to enter your world. I was ordered to open several rifts between your world and Nerys in order for it to feed off of your souls. Whether Gael completes the ritual or not, the Devourer will eventually be able to enter your world through the rifts I created.”
“I thought you said that you had acquired your powers through scientific means?” I said, quite puzzled.
“I am able to control my powers through science. Before the experiment, I was only able to use my powers while in Nerys.” Daiva said, observing her empty glass. “I hope you will understand. I had no choice but to serve my master.”
“I understand, Daiva.” I sighed. “It seems that we have no choice but to destroy Nerys, lest our world shall surely perish.”
“Yes, but it will take millennia for the Devourer to enter your world through the rift.” She smirked. “And with the way things are going, I doubt the human race will be around to see that dark day.” Daiva said nonchalantly and poured another glass.
She did not seem very concerned with our world’s destruction, though I suppose it would make no difference to her.
“I don’t care what fate dictates! I will not take the coward’s way and leave these burdens for future generations to bear.” I frowned. “Now, I must know how you were able to survive after your brother sacrificed your soul to Nerys?”
“Oh, that little incident!” She laughed. “Well, obviously, my soul already belongs to Nerys and my true form exists in this world. I can never truly die unless Nerys is destroyed. I simply restored necessary parts of my consciousness in order to accompany you on this final mission to save humanity.”
“Necessary? Then I suppose dancing is more vital to our mission than being able to properly communicate.”
She shrugged, “It seemed appropriate at the time.”
I sighed. “Why not simply restore your full consciousness? Wouldn’t that have made this task much easier?”
Daiva laughed and smiled brightly. “Yes, it would have, but I take pleasure in you tending to my every need.”
“I see . . .” My eyes wandered to the ceiling. “What of Mary?” I asked, growing anxious. “She attempted to siphon some of your power. Will she live?”
“Yes, she will live and benefit greatly from my strength; otherwise, I would have stopped her.” She suddenly bore a disconcerted expression. “Unfortunately, her mind will deteriorate the longer she remains bound to me. That is the consequence for attempting to receive Nerys’s blessing without offering a sacrifice, I’m afraid.”
It did not seem that Daiva was telling the whole truth concerning Mary, so I managed to remain calm.
“Then that only further strains our time. Is there any other way to increase our seren tolerance?” I asked hopefully.
“No, I’m afraid that without Nerys’s blessing, you will not last long on Haul. If you used that crystal to sacrifice the soul of a Gaelturi man then it would give you a more reliable source of power.” She suggested. “Aside from that, sharing my power is the only way.”
“Hm-m-m.” I sighed. “Then I suppose I have no choice but to follow these occult methods as well.”
“It’s not so bad, Conrad.” She smiled and clasped my shoulder. “Well, I think that I’ve had quite enough to drink. Now, would you suffer to hold me while I fall asleep?”
“Excuse me?” I asked, taken aback.
“Did I not say that I enjoy your nurturing?” She laughed. “Now, will you hold me? You must only do so until I fall asleep. There is a bed on the second floor in which you may lay me to rest. Do not fear of waking me. I tend to sleep quite heavily after drinking.”
“You are no child, Daiva.” I chided. “You can retire to your room on your own.”
“Indeed I am no child, for I could also torture you in ways you cannot imagine if you refuse to obey me.” Daiva whispered, bearing a mischievous smile.
I stared into her blood-red eyes and felt their piercing gaze; she was completely serious.
“So be it . . .” I murmured and set aside my glass. She finished it for me.
“I am grateful.” Her expression relaxed. “Now, allow me to change out of this armor.”
Suddenly, Daiva was enveloped in darkness that slowly formed into a nightgown. The armor had entirely faded away. The whole process took perhaps five seconds.
“Thank you for your patience!” She laughed and jumped into my arms.
I raised my brow. “That was convenient . . .”
“Yes, I am capable of many conveniences in this world. If you are wanting of anything, you need only ask.” Daiva whispered and leaned her head against my shoulder.
I wasn’t exactly sure what she had insinuated, but I decided not to dwell on it. I waited until she had fallen asleep before carrying her to her bedroom. As I walked through the mansion, I noticed that there was not a single window. I suppose that was conceivable since there was no light to shine into the rooms. I laid Daiva onto her bed and began to walk away when she suddenly grabbed my sleeve.
“Conrad, you must sleep as well. It is the fastest way to leave Nerys.” She said sternly.
I turned around and smiled.
“I was actually going to explore this mansion if you don’t mind.” I said hastily, for I desperately wanted to find the origin of that music.
“I do mind, actually!” She yelled, pulling me closer to her. “If I leave Nerys I won’t be able to protect you. We have to leave together.”
I frowned. “But how can I sleep when I just awoke not one hour ago?”
Daiva laughed amusedly. “You didn’t drink enough.” She chided. “Did you think that I drank so much out of my own pleasure?”
I smirked, “Yes, I did actually,” and got into the bed with her.
“Thank you, Conrad. Now, you have to fall asleep before I do.” She said warily.
“When next we return to Nerys, will we awaken in this bed?” I asked curiously.
“Yes, we will. When we lose consciousness in your world, we gain it in Nerys and vice versa.” she said wearily, trying in vain to keep her eyes open.
I found it strange how she had been referring to it as my world as if she were not associated with it at all.
“Do you know if the effects of that water I drank are permanent, or will I no longer be able to enter Nerys once it exits my system?”
She clenched her fist. “Conrad, if you do not fall asleep on your own accord, I will be forced to put you to sleep myself.” She murmured in frustration. “Do you understand?”
I nodded and closed my eyes. When I opened them again, I found myself back in the Rhiannon. Daiva still lay asleep on top of me. I looked around the room to find Edith and Mary already awake and, to my surprise, arguing with each other.
“Well, look who’s finally awake!” Mary yelled, crossing her arms.
“Is there a problem?” I asked wearily as I felt the seren sickness overwhelm my body once again.
“You allowed Edith to share my bed! What made you think that I would want her that close to me? She could have killed me!”
Daiva awoke and smiled at me, paying no heed to Mary’s outrage. Her expression had returned to one of childish innocence.
“She would have me sleep outside like a dog!” Edith scoffed. “She only fights now that she has the energy to spare!”
I wondered how long Mary and my sister would continue this feud. It was true that they had both forgiven me but they had yet to do so for each other. Obviously, Mary had her reasons to despise my sister, given not only her past actions but her future ones as well. Mary was well aware of my sister’s plan and would most likely do whatever she could to stop it, as vain as that would be.
“I am sorry, Mary, but we cannot afford to live comfortably here.” I said dismissively, not wanting these petty quarrels to interfere with our survival.
“We cannot live comfortably?” Mary laughed. “That’s easy for you to say, Conrad! You got to sleep with Daiva!”
I climbed down from the bunk and staggered over to my desk.
“I would have equally enjoyed sleeping with any of you.” I said, throwing my coat over my shoulders.
Edith glared at me. “Oh, yes, I’m sure you would have rather slept with your little sister than either of these two voluptuous women, one of which is a child who would obey your every word and the other, a whore!”
“What did you call me?” Mary exploded in rage. ”You’re the one who grew up on the streets, raised by prostitutes and thieves!”
“Be silent, both of you!” I shouted, gasping for breath. “We cannot waste our energy like this, especially not you, Edith . . . Please, you both forgave me. Can you not do the same for each other? If nothing else, do it for the sake of humanity.”
“So be it . . . I will forgive her, but first she must apologize for insulting me.” Mary said, crossing her arms.
“Aye, and I will do the same.” Edith murmured.
As unsatisfied as they were, I myself was quite pleased with their humility. “Then make it so!”
I stumbled onto the bridge and observed the supplies Daiva had retrieved: Three Gaelturi military uniforms along with three pairs of boots, all much too large to fit even Daiva or me. Perhaps she could wear the boots and maybe even the uniform if I cut off the sleeves, but I was certain that they wouldn’t be comfortable. The food consisted of mostly vegetables with some bread. I couldn’t be sure if any of it was safe to eat. After making my observations, I quickly went to work, trimming the uniforms to the appropriate sizes. Edith had the smallest build followed by Mary and then Daiva. I was quite familiar with Edith’s clothing so I decided to use her as a reference.
Mary walked past me and up to the observation window. Of course it was still dark outside with no star to signal for day.
“Still no Gaelturi ships on radar . . . What should we do for today, Conrad?” she asked, staring out into the darkness.
Yes, Mary was much livelier today. It seemed that Daiva’s powers had restored her vitality, but how long would it be before it began taking instead of giving?
“Why don’t you accompany Daiva to that outpost she raided? Help her collect weapons and anything else that might be useful.” I said, refusing to take my eyes off of my work.
“Weapons? They’ll have nothing but nerysite blades.”
“We will use what we must, and if I could sacrifice one of their souls, it would greatly increase my chances of survival.” I murmured, ashamed that I would even suggest committing such an insidious act.
“What are you talking about, Conrad?” She asked.
I knitted my brow. “Just get me one of those weapons. It’s imperative.”
She nodded and called to Daiva. She stepped into the room and immediately stooped down next to me, taking great interest in my work.
“Is that being for me?” she asked, her eyes lit with wonder.
I laughed to myself. What innocence! If only Mary and Edith could see her true form.
“I’m sorry, Daiva, but this is for Edith. Though, yours will look similar.” I said cheerfully, treating her as if she were a child. “Why don’t you try on a pair of those boots? I think they might nearly fit you.”
She did as I asked and stepped into the cumbersome boots. She displayed a smile of satisfaction.
“I believe they will do. Thank you, Conrad.” She said gratefully, though she had really done all of the work.
“Come, Daiva.” Mary said as she dropped the exit ramp. “Conrad wants us to search more thoroughly through that outpost you found. He wants one of their weapons.”
“Why would you be wanting of a weapon?” Daiva asked in shock. “I can protect you!”
I smirked. “Oh, just some insurance.”
“Insurance? What is—?”
“Let’s go, Daiva! We’re wasting time!” Mary yelled impatiently.
Daiva arose and hastily left the Rhiannon without a word. Mary followed, keeping up as best she could in such improper dress. I thought about my time in Nerys with Daiva. One thing kept eating away about this whole situation: Science had been wrong. Science had said that the Gaelturi were stealing their souls in order to gain more power from the seren, but that was far from the truth. Science also stated that anyone could reach the Omega Point if they absorbed enough seren. That was also false. All my life, science had dictated everything, but now it seemed so powerless. After all, what science could explain Nerys? Madness reigned in that world; it had no order. Even more unexplainable was the Omega Point. It was such a vague phenomenon. Everyone desires to reach it, but do they even know what awaits them there?
I suddenly felt the familiar sensation of Edith’s hair brushing against me. I could also feel her heavy breathing as she leaned her back against mine. The seren poisoning was obviously taking its toll on her, though she was trying her best to hide it.
“Listen, Edith, I didn’t mean to offend you by sleeping with Daiva.” I said embarrassedly as I busied myself with my work.
“Ha! Do you think I am childish enough to take insult at that?” Edith laughed. “Better her than Mary . . . At least Daiva can protect you, and she isn’t obsessed with you like we are. Oh, and I know that you’re hiding something about Mary’s condition. She won’t last long, will she? Siphoning Daiva’s power is only delaying the inevitable, isn’t it?
I frowned. “Daiva believes that she will slowly lose her mind. At least she’ll be able to fight”—I paused—“for the time being.
“What is that? Are you almost finished, Conrad?” She asked excitedly.
“Finished?” I sighed and looked over my work with disgust. “Yes, I suppose it would be best to stop.”
I stood up and displayed the uniform to her. Edith’s eyes widened when she saw the dreadful thing.
“I’m impressed, Conrad. I never imagined that you would be able to make something so . . . feminine.” She said as she felt the material.
“It wasn’t too difficult. Their uniforms are basically robes so I just cut off the sleeves and leggings while also cutting material out of the waist and then sewing the two parts back together to shorten it.” I explained subconsciously as I do for all of my inventions.
“Perhaps you could make all sorts of dresses for me when we get home.” She smiled teasingly.
“If we manage to return home, I’ll make you all the dresses you want, Edith!” I said as I hastily began working on the next uniform. “I’m sorry if it still doesn’t fit very well.”
“It’s fine, Conrad.” Edith laughed and removed her dress. Once she had changed, she sat back down on the floor and leaned against me.
“So you sent Mary and Daiva to retrieve a nerysite weapon for you?” Edith asked curiously.
“Yes, that is correct.”
“Good. You shouldn’t be afraid to bloody your hands when your life hangs in the balance.” She breathed.
“Yes, and not just my life, but yours as well.” I sighed deeply. “Indeed, we carry the fate of humanity in our hands.”
“That is true, and with that responsibility I hope that you realize what else you must do in order to safely secure humanity’s future?” Edith asked.
I paused from my work. “What are you insinuating?” I demanded.
“Isn’t it obvious?” She laughed. “If we are to fail and Gael is able to reach the Omega Point, then you will have no other choice but to provide Mary with a child. If you don’t, then humanity will cease to exist.”
“If Gael performs that ritual, the whole world will cease to exist.” I said sternly. “No, that is not one of my concerns.”
“And what if Daiva is able to protect us from whatever doom this ritual will bring? Would you feel secured in doing this? It is likely that your child would inherit an immunity to the seren sickness.”
I sighed. “You know that that changes nothing! I’m sorry, but I refuse to follow the path of our father. This poison will soon take my life and Mary will be all alone. . . . I don’t want to leave her like this, Edith.”
“Oh, Conrad . . . you don’t have to leave her.” Edith said faintly.
“What do you mean?” I asked, desperately.
“You could use one of the Gaelturi’s weapons to take my soul, then you, too, would be immune to the poison.”
I froze and dropped my tools. I turned around and held her hand. It was so cold.
“Don’t ever say that again.” I rasped. “I want nothing more than to see you smile, and if I must die to see it a little longer, then so be it. Saving humanity isn’t worth losing you.”
She groaned. “What a foolish thing to say. Don’t you understand that our souls would be bound together for all eternity? It’s not as if you’re killing me.”
“You’re right, Edith. It’s much worse. I would be sacrificing your soul to Nerys and we would be forever separated.” I said gravely.
She sighed heavily. “I was hoping you hadn’t discovered that. What a pity . . .”
“You knew!” I gasped. “Then you offered your soul to Nerys, not me? Tell me, did Gael command you to do this? Is it all part of his plan that you sacrifice yourself?”
She did not answer me, but merely stared down at herself with shame.
“I will not listen to any more of your vile ideas for saving me.” I said sternly. “We will die together. I am content with that.”
Edith released my hand and backed away from me. She had a look of insanity in her eyes.
“What? Conrad . . . you can’t.” She breathed.
“What does it matter if the world is saved and yet I cannot enjoy it with you?” I yelled, grabbing her wrist. “Is it not obvious that I would rather die with you than murder you just so I could live perhaps a few more days?”
Edith made no attempt to resist. She didn’t even flinch.
“Conrad, I’m just trying to help you.” Edith murmured as she stepped closer to me.
“Then live for me, sister!” I yelled earnestly. “I’ve never wanted anything else from you, yet you intend to sacrifice your soul, so I can take a few more meager breaths in this world!”
“But Conrad, I don’t have much time left.” Edith whispered as she grasped my shoulders. “Both of us cannot live, and once I am dead, I will be of no use to you. Surely, you realize this?”
I embraced her tightly and caressed her hair. “I don’t care if you die tonight, Edith.” I said tenderly. “Every moment I have with you is precious to me. I promise to stay by your side until the end.”
“You don’t understand. How can I pass on, knowing that I could have saved your life?” She asked, her eyes welling with tears.
“And how could I live with myself if I fed your soul to the Devourer?” I yelled, tightening my embrace around her. “We would be separated forever! Don’t you understand the gravity of what you ask?”
“I’m sorry, Conrad, but this is something I have to do.”
I felt Edith’s hand reach down my side and into my pocket. I immediately grabbed her wrist and she pulled her hand away. Within her grasp was the nerysite fragment. She was attempting to stab herself with the wicked thing.
“What am I to you?” I demanded as I grabbed her wrist with my other hand as well.
Edith did the same and continued to pull the crystal’s jagged edge toward her chest.
“Just let me do this, Conrad, and you’ll see just how much I cherish you!” She yelled through gritted teeth.
“I want to see that now, Edith, not after you are gone!”
I removed one of my hands from her wrist and grasped the back of her head. I pulled her as close to me as I could and kissed her forehead. I heard her gasp, though I could not tell if it was because of my kiss or the crystal dagger that had plunged into her breast.
“Forgive me . . . I love you, I love you . . .” She whispered, barely audible.
I kissed her again and she closed her eyes without shedding a single tear. They never again opened in this world. I felt the power rushing into my body as I received the blessing of Nerys. Edith dropped the crystal and her limp body fell against me. I picked her up, cradling her in my arms. Her face displayed a meek smile as if she were merely asleep.
I felt as though I had been the one to lose their soul. I fell to my knees and yelled as loud as I could, yet I could not cry.
“What kind of monster am I who cannot weep for his own sister’s damnation?” I murmured.
I watched as my skin grew paler and the hair on my arms became as white as snow. I now looked no different from a man of the Gaelturi. Edith’s nightmare had been realized; we had been torn apart. My only hope now was to reach the Omega Point and destroy Nerys.
Suddenly, the door opened from behind me. Of course Mary and Daiva had returned now that the evil deed was done.
“Conrad, we—” Mary fell silent when I turned around, holding Edith in my arms.
“What happened, Conrad?” Daiva asked, throwing down her supplies and running up to me.
My confusion and rage bested my mind. I had nothing left without her.
“You knew that this would happen, didn’t you, Mary?” I demanded, shoving Daiva aside.
“Conrad, I’m sorry, but you told me that you would accept your fate! What was I to do?” She protested.
I refused to admit it, but she was right. Even if she had told me, it would have made no difference. I managed to calm down and laid Edith down on one of the beds. I began to leave the room when Daiva stopped me.
“Where be you going, Conrad?” She asked.
“I’m going to atone for this. I won’t be long.” I said and left the Rhiannon.
I ran through the darkness that slowly encroached about me and burrowed into my very soul. It nestled against my heart and I became one with it.