Love and duty in life continues beyond death.
The Resurrection of Elliiar’diiard
Everything is Everything Award
For the third time since starting this ridiculous trek with her surly and deformed guide, Sally Harte discovered boggy marsh masquerading as solid ground and was once again ankle deep in the sucking mud. She groaned and, preoccupied with fighting the ooze for possession of her shoes, failed to notice the silent approach of her guide. She bit back a curse on seeing his sensible black boots, noticeably lacking in mud.
Sally looked up into violet, almost black eyes, sparking with magic in a face hideously formed, and caught her breath. Magic brushed against her, curling about her, lifting her out of the bog and placing her gently upon the path.
‘Stick to the path,’ he said, limping away.
She stood there, watching his twisted, retreating back, her heart thumping in her chest and found herself incredibly furious. Last night he’d been berating her for something, yet again, and then he’d broken off, taken her in his arms and kissed her. Time had stood still and she’d lost herself in the moment. Then without a word, he’d walked away and left her standing there, dazed and confused, her heart thumping and skin burning deliciously. Today he was being as hideous to her as he looked!
Angry tears fell to the marshy ground, and angry words tumbled from her mouth like a cascading river dashing itself masochistically upon the rocks before rushing over the falls, ‘I would happily stick to the path, Tiberius, if I could actually see the bloody thing! What is it with you?! Yesterday you kiss me. Today you treat me as though I’m some foul thing. News flash, you stupid, imbecile wizard, I’m still the same person today that I was yesterday and the day before that! In fact, I’m still the same bloody person I was when I first arrived here six months ago!’ She paused, and took a deep breath, ‘And now, after what happened last night you expect me to follow you through this vile swamp, stay on a path I can’t see and trust you! Why should I trust you? You constantly treat me as though I’m beneath you, unworthy of you, and then you have the gall to kiss me and walk away! I don’t get it! Why do you hate me so much?’
She watched his still form ahead of her through narrowed eyes, wondering if maybe she’d overstepped some invisible mark. He lifted his clawed hand and spoke something, a word she couldn’t hear. A golden light weaved its way through the treacherous marsh lighting a path for her to follow.
‘You are following me through this vile place, Sally Harte, because something has been found that may help restore your somewhat elusive memories. If you can’t bring yourself to trust me, you can at least trust Alsius who only has your best interests at heart. Of course, if you’re not interested we can always go back,’ he said over his shoulder as he limped away, his black cloak swirling about him like darkness come to life.
‘You haven’t answered me!’ she called out after his bent and twisted figure. ‘How can someone so incredibly ugly make feel like a teenager with a crush?’ She breathed deep and exhaled slowly. Closing her eyes on the grey dreariness of the swamp, she breathed deeply again, remembering the feel of his lips on hers; remembering the delicious taste of magic on his tongue and the fire he’d ignited in her flesh. She shivered as the memory raised her skin in goosebumps.
Ahead Tiberius’ hair stood on end and his skin prickled. He spun around and stared in amazement and horror at the cloud of magic sparking around her and landing on the marshy ground. ‘How is this possible when she has no magic?’ The path carried him swiftly back to her.
‘This is not the place for uncontrolled magic!’ he said, grabbing her shoulders and shaking her. ‘Stop it, Sally! Too many things lie buried here, things we don’t want to wake! What are you doing?’
Salacious green eyes opened, meeting his stormy violet ones, ‘I was remembering last night,’ she said, her voice husky, her lips slightly parted.
The heady mix of wrath and desire coursed through his veins, and desire won out. He kissed her again. From the moment she’d unexpectedly appeared in his world, fleeing the voracious wyrms, the non-magical Sally Harte had turned his world upside down and made his life exquisite torture. Her very presence angered him inexplicably, yet all he wanted was to hold her in his arms and never let her go. He reluctantly drew back, ‘We shouldn’t be doing this now, or here,’ he said.
‘Tiberius?’ she said, her voice trembling. Monstrous things were rising from the sucking black sludge like a terrible nightmare.
‘I see them,’ he said, turning her around so her back was to him, pulling her close so they were almost touching, his clawed hand upon her shoulder. He slid his wand from beneath his cloak with the other and held it there ready.
Sally drew in a shuddering breath, an intoxicating mixture of desire and fear coursing through her veins as she watched the grotesque forms standing tall, still and silent. The oily black mud slid off them, leaving them immaculately clean, revealing mummified warriors with white blonde hair, wearing intricately detailed, striking black and gold armour.
She stared at the lifeless bodies before her, so achingly familiar. She could feel a memory dancing enticingly on the edges of her mind. Reaching for it, she cried out in pain as it caught on one of the many traps her maelific benefactor had woven into her mind. She fell against Tiberius as pain-filled darkness tried to whisk her away.
He wrapped his arms tightly around her and pulled her close. ‘Sally! Stay with me!’
Boneless in his arms she focussed on his voice, turning her head enough to stare into his magical, violet eyes, ‘Why does my name offend you? Why does my mere existence insult you?’ she said, strength slowly returning.
‘Because it’s not your real name. Whoever you are, your name is not ‘Sally Harte’. Every time I speak it, it tastes rotten on my tongue!’ He sighed, turning his eyes away from her to the dead figures encircling them.
‘Oh,’ she said, managing to stand without leaning against him. ‘What do you think they want?’
‘I don’t know, but it’s your magic that woke them.’
‘But I don’t have any magic!’
‘Well, it seems that you do now. Not a good time for it to awaken.’
‘Do you recognise their armour, Tiberius?’
‘No. Do you?’
‘It’s familiar. I think I remember it…from somewhere,’ she said, concentrating tentatively searching her memories. Excruciating agony exploded in her head, complete with its own fireworks display behind her eyes.
‘Not now, Sally!’ said Tiberius, catching her collapsing body with his crippled arm, gasping as his muscles and sinews tore. ‘Sally! Sally! You’ve got to stay with me!’
His voice lit a golden path through the inky blackness, guiding her back to him. She concentrated on him, on his voice and how he made her feel and the grasping darkness receded like the tide. ‘Help me,’ she whispered.
‘Speak the word you used to light the path in the swamp, it will guide me through my memories. And don’t let me go, Tiberius, whatever happens, don’t let me go.’
‘I’m not planning to, Sally,’ he said, pressing his lips to her warm neck just below her ear.
She turned her head so his lips pressed against hers. ‘I love you,’ she whispered into his mind. ‘I don’t know why, but I do. Call me back when it is time.’
‘How will I know?’
‘You just will.’
She sank back into her memories and a glowing pathway appeared before her, weaving its way effortlessly through the darkness bypassing the various snags, traps and pitfalls.
Tiberius’ golden path swept her along to a castle surrounded by an army of monstrous creatures ready to engulf the few desperate defenders inside. It drew her on, rushing her through the castle, along corridors and up stairs where she caught glimpses of hurrying soldiers, terrified women, crying children – glimpses of faces and things she almost recognised.
But the path continued on, drawing her with it, onwards and upwards, until she was floating above a crenelated tower overlooking the surrounding countryside. The day’s last fiery rays were fading as the sun sank behind the hills, lighting up the vast enemy hordes surrounding the castle walls in a sea of writhing shadow. Before her stood three figures, their cloaks whipping in the icy winds – she couldn’t feel it, but she shivered anyway. Two are shrouded in mystery, but the third one glows, and Sally found herself suspended above the flagstones at his side.
He is tall with white blond hair and dressed for battle, an intricately patterned black and gold armour moulded to his form. It was the same armour on the corpses surrounding them in the swamp. She turned her gaze to his face and drew in a hissing breath, her heart pounding in her chest, just as it did when Tiberius kissed her.
‘I loved this man once,’ she thought, drinking in his elvish features, studying his handsome face, staring into the black pools that were his eyes, listening to his lilting musical voice.
‘…Arienne has charged me with giving the Pleiades de Solar to Treyh Saall,’ he said, drawing forth a necklace of sparkling and glowing stars from within his armour.
‘Treyh Saall,’ her body shivered. ‘Treyh Saall,’ she whispered to herself, tasting the words on her tongue, knowing she’d found her real name. She cried out as pain bloomed like a red rose and a murky shroud wrapped itself around her suffocating and strangling.
It was barely the sound of butterfly wings, yet Tiberius heard it. He shivered as the power of her true name covered them both. He buried his face in her hair, inhaling her scent deeply as she collapsed against him again. He spoke the words and they were sweet and spiced in his mouth. Around him the dead figures stirred, magic curling about them. And he saw her hair change from ebony to the silver of moonlight.
Learning her name had come at a price though. She had strayed from the path, just as she had in the swamp. He would have to find her and pull her out again. Gritting his teeth against the pain in his twisted body, he adjusted his grip. Not for the first time he wished that he was tall and strong, not contorted and weak. He whispered her name, closed his eyes and reached into her mind, searching for her; finding her floating in an ebony sea, wrapped in suffering.
Standing upon its edge, the black waters lapping at his boots, Tiberius sent his magic to her, lifting her out of the agony and placing her feet once more upon the path. His magic sparked and crackled over her skin.
‘Thank you,’ she whispered, taking his face in her hands and kissing him. ‘Here you are not crippled and deformed, Tiberius, but whole and strong.’
And then the path whisked her away, leaving him standing in the darkness, watching her go. He opened his eyes and was back in the swamp, surrounded by the long departed warriors from another time. They had moved closer, ringing them completely, yet, he sensed no threat; it seemed that, like him, they were waiting for something. His arms, back and legs were aching with a dull fire – he wondered how long he had before it was a raging one. He clenched his jaw and adjusted his grip again. He would not let her go.
Treyh Saall returned to the tower. One of the silhouetted figures was speaking in a voice she found oddly familiar, yet his words were indecipherable and in a language she did not know, yet felt she should. ‘Who are you?’ she wondered, ‘Why are your features and words hidden from me?’
The one she could see spoke again, ‘No, only I can give Treyh Saall the Pleiades de Solar, no-one else. Those are Ariene’s words. She has to willingly take it from me, it cannot be forced upon her.’ He tried to clasp the radiant necklace about the other shadowed figure’s neck, but could not. The light from the necklace of stars bathed the darkened face in brilliance and Treyh Saall found herself gazing at her own face. She had known she was Treyh Saall, but seeing herself did her in. She shattered as if she was the reflection in a full length mirror. She fell apart, splinters of sharp glass tumbling and falling. Crying out, she felt Tiberius grip her tighter, heard him call her name over and over.
The pain withdrew, her broken pieces reassembled and she was there again on the tower, listening to the musical voice of the shining one ‘…Arienne has foreseen a time when Treyh Saall will have need of both the Pleiades de Solar and the Eloihym. So she has bound us to Treyh Saall until the time she foresaw has passed. Only then will we be free to go.’
‘Eloihym,’ she said, the word tumbling from her tongue like a musical gem. ‘Who are they? What is this need Ariene saw? And who is she?’ Treyh Saall watched the glowing Eloihym stroke the cheek of her shadowed self standing rigid on the tower, hands grasping the stone crenulations, in some kind of trance state, oblivious to what was happening around her. ‘No, not oblivious. She is aware…I am aware, but I’m too far away. Where have I gone? Why?’
Treyh Saall moved closer and stared into her own eyes, wondering what this self was seeing. Fragmented images flashed into her mind, shadowed and veiled, as if from a dirt stained mirror. She could feel malevolent shadows reaching for her, but Tiberius’ golden path glowed brightly. She stepped upon it and felt herself swept away, leaving the three figures on the tower behind. She sped along the path through smoke-filled, red-hazed murkiness, glimpsing flashing swords, armoured warriors and foul monsters coming together in battle with growling, yelling, screaming and the crash and ring of steel striking steel. The dark army surrounding the castle had attacked.
The path guided her to the golden Eloihym she had seen on the tower. He was a radiant flame, unbearably bright in the darkness, surrounded by wickedness, fighting with skill and grace. His name blossomed in the forgotten memories of her mind like a flower opening to the sun. ‘Casseus,’ she whispered. His name felt like honey on her lips. She felt the malicious darkness surge around her but it was held back by the force of Tiberius’ magic. ‘I will remember!’
Tucked into his armour she could see the glowing necklace of stars, the necklace she should have accepted, but didn’t because although her body was here, she was somewhere else. She watched Casseus fight, beautiful in this macabre dance of death, angelic and golden he meted out death upon his enemy with his flashing silver sword.
Behind him smoke and fire coalesced into a monstrous horned beast holding a battle axe as tall as a man. Raising it to deliver the death blow, but Casseus turns, pivots, dances away and slips on the blood and entrails of the recently fallen. The axe falls. He raises his sword to parry and a black arrow takes him in the gap of his armour. He drops his sword.
‘No!’ Treyh Saall screams as the axe deals the killing blow and he falls, dying with her name on his lips. ‘No,’ she whispered, sinking to her knees, tears running down her face. ‘I’m sorry, Casseus. I’m sorry.’ Her memory showed her the Eloihym falling one by one. As each life was extinguished, their names lodged in her heart like arrows. With each Eloihym death her heart broke until it was nothing but pieces. The Eloihym fought and died for her while she stood in a frozen trance upon the tallest tower. She couldn’t stop the body wracking sobs.
Tiberius refused to let Treyh Saall go as she fell to her knees. He tried to hold her upright but his crippled body was not strong enough. He fell with her, keeping his arm around her. Despite the unbearable pain lashing through his body he pushed himself to his knees, pulling her against his trembling and heaving chest, whispering her true name over and over. He buried his face into her tangled moonlight hair, breathing in her scent. The nausea ebbed leaving him only with light headedness and searing agony to deal with. He watched the dead warriors, the Eloihym, through the tangles of her hair. He’d seen them stand taller when that word had fallen from Treyh Saall’s lips. He’d heard her whisper Casseus’ name with such longing and tenderness that jealousy had surged through his veins like poison. He knew from her screams and sobs that she was seeing the Eloihym die and felt his own heart breaking with her pain.
‘Perhaps it is better if she does not remember,’ whispered the thought. ‘You could help her with that. All you have to do is let her go…’
‘No! I promised her I would not!’ He looked around and stared at the horrible muck oozing up his leg. ‘Begone!’ And it was, in a flash of foul smelling puce. ‘Treyh Saall,’ he whispered into her hair, ‘I’m here. I won’t let you go. It’s time. Come back to me.’
She was alone. Tiberius’ magic was gone. She was surrounded by gloom, bereft of hope. Yet, she could hear him calling her, feel his lips on her neck. Hope flared. He’d been true to his word and not let her go. She could find her way back. Cracks appeared in the walls of the benighted place she was in, crumbling away to nothing. Light poured in and she found herself in Tiberius’ arms and kneeling in the cold bog. Her tingling skin was almost painful as he continued to kiss her neck and murmur her name.
She drew in a juddering breath between sobs. ‘They died because of me!’ She hiccupped and blew her nose on the tissue she’d found in her pocket, ‘And they’re still here because of me.’ She twisted around to face him, tears glistening on her cheeks, ‘I remember,’ she said, drawing his mouth to hers, tasting his magic, feeling electricity on her skin as he returned her kiss. ‘Thank you,’ she said, ‘I couldn’t have done it without you, Tiberius. You were my light in the darkness.’
‘What did you see?’
‘I saw a castle besieged by an army of darkness. I was there, in a trance, standing on a tower…’
‘There was a castle here,’ he said, ‘Long ago. It’s where Alsius and the others are waiting for us. But with all the magical disturbance I suspect they’ll be coming to us.’
‘It was strange seeing myself,’ she said, ‘I was different. My eyes and hair were silver…’.
‘Are silver,’ he said. ‘It happened when you whispered your real name. It unlocked something in you, in them, and your hair changed to the colour of the moon.’
She ran her fingers through her hair and gazed in wonder at the silver tresses falling from them. Awkwardly she staggered to her feet, stiff and cold. ‘I’m sorry for causing you such pain,’ she said, seeing it etched on his face. She offered her hand and pulled him to his feet.
He gave her a half smile, putting his arms around her again.’It was worth it, Treyh Saall. Now I can use your real name and some of your memories have returned.’
‘It’s a start…’ She placed her hand on his cheek, ‘I love you, Tiberius, forever and always.’ He pressed his lips to her hair and she took his hand in hers, reminded of Casseus’ hand. ‘Aaggh!’ she cried out, pressing her fingers to her temples, urgently trying to stop the sudden agonizing pain exploding in her mind.
‘I’m okay, it’s just your hand, it’s just like Casseus’.’
‘Did you love him?’ asked Tiberius.
‘Yes.’ She smiled, ‘It was long ago, Tiberius. He’s a memory from a different time with a different me. There’s no need to be jealous.’
He sighed, ‘I know, but I can’t help it. I love you, Treyh Saall, desperately. To think of you loving another…’
‘Don’t…Do you think I could be Eloihym?’
‘Not Eloihym,’ grated a harsh voice from amongst the dead warriors. ‘More.’
Her heart told her it was Casseus who spoke and she turned to face the encompassing dead Eloihym, still wrapped in Tiberius’ arms. ‘I watched each one of you die,’ she said, her voice catching in her throat, ‘All because you were bound by another to serve and protect me. You came to give me a necklace of starlight, but I couldn’t take it.’
Reluctantly she let go of Tiberius and moved closer to them. ‘I remember the Eloihym. Dear, brave Eloihym, come to fight a battle not their own. Charged to protect a daughter not their own and unable to return until their duty fulfilled.’ Treyh Saall drew in a shaky breath and the rest of her words were little more than a choked whisper, ‘I’m sorry, so sorry I wasn’t there to accept the necklace and release you. I’m sorry you died far from home.’
She closed the gap and gingerly placed her hand upon the nearest Eloihym’s breastplate, over the place where his heart once beat. A word flew spontaneously from her mouth in the form of a glowing silver dart, piercing his armour. The Eloihym warrior stood straighter and taller, his armour glowing, magic sparking in his white blond hair and over his mummified flesh.
She moved to the next Eloihym, placed her hand on his breastplate over his heart. A different word flew from her mouth piercing his armour. She smiled through her tears as he stood taller, the magic crackling over him, understanding that she was returning to them the names they had lost when they had died on this battlefield far from home. At least she could give them back that.
As Treyh Saall came to Casseus, she became aware of Alsius and the others watching from a small rise. Tiberius had been right, they had felt the magic and come. She met Alsius’ eyes and he nodded. They were content to wait and see, but she knew that if they were needed they’d be there.
She stood silent in front of Casseus, staring into his dead eyes and placed her hand on his breastplate, speaking his name. She reached up and touched his blackened, mummified cheek, feeling dead skin rough like sandpaper beneath her fingers. She had loved him once and her heart ached for him now. Overcome with sorrow she staggered. Casseus caught her around the waist, steadying her.
Looking down at her in his arms he said, in a voice broken and dead, ‘I loved you once, Treyh Saall.’
‘I remember,’ she said.
‘I came to you not just because Ariene commanded it.’
‘I’m sorry,’ she said, choking on the words, tears falling. Moving back out of his dead fingered grasp she felt the magic around them building, rising like a giant wave.
‘Do you accept the Pleiades de Solar, Treyh Saall?’ said Casseus, his dead voice rasping through black cracked lips, all its music gone, drawing forth the necklace of glowing stars from within his armour. She stared at it in wonder. They were so much brighter in person than in her memories.
‘Yes,’ she said, shivering, ‘I accept the Pleiades de Solar.’
He stepped forward, draping the stars around her neck. They grew hot and molten on her flesh, the stars expanding until they consumed her and swallowed her up. Lost in their brilliant white light with the heat of a thousand suns she went up in flames, her mind releasing the memories of Casseus and Arienne. Crying out she crumpled, but was caught again in Casseus’s strong, lifeless grip.
She turned to meet Tiberius’ eyes, and gave him a small smile. ‘I’m okay.’ She turned back to Casseus, staring again into lifeless eyes, remembering how once they sparkled with laughter. She remembered his handsome face with its high cheek bones and sensuous lips; she remembered their feel upon her own. ‘You have fulfilled your charge. I release you. Please go home.’
Around her the magic continued to build, so hot now that it burnt every time it landed on bare flesh, like being pricked with a molten needle. There was so much of it she was suffocating. The fine hairs on her arms were standing on end and her long silver hair was spread out around her like a bizzaire kind of halo.
‘It seems,’ Casseus’ dead voice sounding awful to her ears, ‘Our charge is not yet fulfilled. What Arienne foresaw has not come to pass, perhaps not yet come into being. You must be protected, Treyh Saall. We must stay.’
‘Oh Casseus,’ she said, groaning, ‘You’ve already died once, must you continue to protect me even after death?’
‘Yes,’ he said – no emotion and no music. He let go of her.
‘I’m sorry, Casseus,’ she said, crying, ‘So sorry.’
‘I’m sorry too,’ he rasped, ‘My love.’
Treyh Saall reached up and ran her fingers over his dead, mummified flesh. She closed her eyes and touched her warm, live lips to his cold, dead ones. The magic broke; erupting swirling, crackling power consuming them all.
Her eyes snapped open as she felt cold dead lips grow hot beneath hers and strong arms enclosing her in a frantic embrace. She felt him tangling his fingers in her silver hair, crushing her lips with his own, hungry for her. And then the magic tore him from her. She watched, helpless, as the magical maelstrom became a whirlpool, sucking Tiberius, Casseus and the other Eloihym into it; spinning them around in its magical vortex as though they were nothing but leaves, while she was left untouched, the Pleiades de Solar around her neck glowing with brilliant white light, sparking with magic.
She tried to move, tried to reach Tiberius and Casseus, but found she could not. It was as if she’d put down deep roots and was secured to the ground. Horrified she fell to her knees, wondering at the terrible beast she had released.
Dismayed Tiberius watched Treyh Saall kiss the corpse of Casseus, jealousy piercing his soul. Magic exploded. He screamed as it seared his flesh, shattering him into a million pieces. Magic as painful as daggers, solid as rock and fluid as water dragged him under and he was helpless in its ruthless grip. He collided with another and found himself face to face with Casseus. For a moment their eyes met, recognition flared and the magic devoured them. Their clothes melted off them and magic pierced their bodies with a thousand serrated blades; cutting it pulled them apart, melting their flesh and bones until they were lumps of unformed flesh and could scream no more. In silent agony magic shaped them into something new and exploded out of them as violently as it had entered them.
Treyh Saall felt the magic change. She looked up to see it swirling around her, crackling, sparking, hot. It was getting closer, and still she could not move. Closing her eyes she felt it wrap around her, encasing her in a glove of chaotic magic. At first it is quite pleasant, but it quickly increases to a level where it feels like molten lava is melting into her flesh and bones. She screams and a river of magic pours into her open mouth, silencing her.
The world stills. Casseus and Tiberius are gone, but in their place lay a trembling body on the cold marshy ground. Violet eyes opened and he rolled over, sitting up in one fluid movement. Around him are golden skinned, white blond warriors in shining black and gold armour, glowing with magic and life, almost too bright to look at. He stood, and noticed he was naked. He stared at his unclothed body – he was different – his skin tingled as he remembered the agony of the magic pulling him apart and putting him back together…
He looked around and saw the magic gathered at one point and knew he would find her there. But by the time he’d reached the place the magic was gone, and Treyh Saall lay on her side amongst the marsh grasses and flowers. He frowned, at this time of year there were no flowers, and yet, surrounding her swooning body was a flower carpet of blue, purple, pink, white and gold.
‘Treyh Saall,’ he said, kneeling beside her, gingerly touching her. There was no response. He leant close and felt her warm breath against his ear. Relieved he carefully scooped her off the ground, cradling her against his chest. Standing, he saw a group coming towards him, and knew he knew them. Now he understood how she had felt. It was unpleasant knowing you knew something, but not knowing at the same time. He began walking towards them.
‘Tiberius?’ said the tall man in front of the group.
‘Tiberius? Yes,’ he smiled, ‘That was my name, wasn’t it?’
‘What is your name now?’ said the man, regarding him with bright blue, wise and kind eyes.
‘I was Tiberius. And I was Casseus. Now I am them both. My name is Elliiar’diiard,’ he said.
‘Elliiar’diiard, I am Alsius, and I am your friend. Do you remember that?’
‘What happened to her?’
‘I don’t…the magic…’
Alsius nodded, ‘It’s all right Elliar’diiard, there’s no rush, although, if you can tell me who your companions are…’
‘Companions?’ he said, turning. ‘Oh, you mean the Eloihym.’
‘Yes. They came out of the swamp. They have been given a charge by someone called Arienne to protect Treyh Saall and give her a necklace of stars.’
‘Does she have it?’
‘Then we must take her to the castle ruins without delay,’ said Alsius, removing his cloak and draping it over Elliiar’diiard’s shoulders.
‘Because that is where Sally…Treyh Saall, must go now.’