Hail to the glorious (un) dead

Repressed Madness

Part 3 - Remnants

Elyssia. A place I had heard of many times from my companions, but not for a moment did I expect to see this. An evil red sun hung in the sky casting a wicked hue over all things. The vampires had turned whatever this place once was, the paradise I had heard of many times, into a paradise for the blood-obsessed. I kept my concerns quiet, not wanting to add to the sorrows, at least no more than already, but I couldn’t help but feel a terrible tension over all of us, and bad things have happened because of such things.

To help prevent any prying eyes, and to help us move quicker through the harsh landscape, Cheshire, Alix, and Aintai hid in the bag, while the rest of us walked. With the exception for myself, who floated alongside Nerida and Ulkair. Before we departed the door, Ulkair closed it with whatever magic it needed. I’m still unsure of how magic works, but I felt strange as the door closed. This could be our final stand, and if it was, then so many unresolved feelings would go on. I looked to Cheshire and Alix, thinking back to only a few days ago, when I peeled the little hero from my leg, as I marched her father into death’s camp. I thought of my own father, whom I saved through my words, but now I wondered if those words were hollow. As we travelled, I remained silent, considering appropriate words for Cheshire and Alix, but none came to me. What could I possibly say to atone for my crimes?
After a while of travelling in a directionless pattern, Ulkair, more tired than the rest of us, it seemed to me, asked Alix if he could find us a place to hide and rest. I had forgotten that we had just fought a great battle, several in fact. I tried to think back, to remember if we actually did sleep, then I remembered that I had slept on the gate, in anticipation for Dovev, and I shook off the sorrow. I was moping enough as it was.

Alix stuck his head out of the bag and looked around. In his ever brilliant sense of direction he seemed to know the barren world better than Ulkair, but in his defense I could see a deep sadness to the ancient mad wizard. As I looked upon him, being as Ulkair as he possible could, I could see the burden this place put on him, and I felt sympathy. I am, after all, no stranger to atrocity.

At last we stopped for rest, but I wondered how much rest we could have in this evil place. My answer was Ulkair making a hut appear out of air. I found the lack of surprise more surprising than the appearance of a hut. I truly don’t understand magic. I hear Nerida suggest Cheshire’s music to whisk us off to sleep. I wouldn’t argue. Her music would be nice to hear right now. Cheshire summons a tuba, and I smile. Of course she would, I listen to the sound with my eyes closed, happy for her beautiful brassy. But its cut short by Nerida, who was reminded by the last time an instrument was played loudly at night. I frowned at this but kept silent. That was also when I made the first of many mistakes. Mistakes I’ve yet to make up for.

Once inside the hut, my companions flowed out of the bag like water, relieved to be away from the atrocious sun. I hear Ulkair mention the brief timeframe we have to rest. Only four hours, then we must march to war again. The idea of a watch is abandoned quickly for the rest. This magic hut should protect us from the ever present eyes of the vampires. I sit on my bed, feeling the need for sleep, the need for a lot of things. But I’ll be glad for sleep.
I hear Nerida begin to sing to Ulkair, but I don’t listen to intently. My heart is elsewhere, and my dreams beckon.

It was a dark scape all around. An endless void, only darkness, and me, standing within. This void wasn’t unusual or strange to me. It was the space I visited in my dreams, a place where I could make any scenario or hope come true. But this visit was different, despite the dark despite the loneliness, I felt the presence of something else. Something familiar. An accordion began to play, and I perked up. My axe appeared in my hand as I swung around ready to bring it into the throat of the Ichtaca, but I stopped short when I stared into my master, Üdragoth’s, face.

“Master!” I cried, happiness filling my confused heart. I threw away my axe and embraced him, he smelled different, but I didn’t care, it was my master, surely he, of all people, didn’t hate me. “Master, I’m so glad you’re here!” I cried into his shoulder, “There is so much I want to talk to you about, so much I need your help with. I’m sorry, master.” I let tears form in my eyes. My master had taught me that tears were best saved for closed doors, the battlefield was for blood, but I couldn’t help it. All my pain washed away as I embraced him harder, but then I noticed something, he wasn’t embracing me back. In fact, his body was beginning to feel warm, then hot. I tried to remove my arms, and trails of melted flesh came with them. In a flash I watched my master ignite in a red fire, throwing me to the ground. I looked from the burning visage to myself, and realized that I was a boy again, weak, helpless. My eyes returned to my master, burning from a heat I could not fathom, but he did not scream. His eyes, tense and angry, glared into my heart, and I felt a helplessness I’d never known.
“Lóin,” his voice boomed, angry and dark. “How could you! How could you hold that worthless father above me! I raised you, and your mother! Where was Tranatheraxxus all your life? Was he there for all the horror and torment we endured together! No! I raised you, you were my son! But I was cast aside the moment your ‘real’ father appeared!”
“Its not like that master!” I cried back. Something in me couldn’t help but wonder if it was though. When I flew in the skies of Byss, I felt a closeness to my father that I’d never known possible, and even a desire to be in the sky with him. When I saw what the vampires had made him, any desires I had previously became to save him no matter what. Did I forget my master for that ideal? “It’s not like that.” I whisper.

“It is Lóin! This flame that consumes me is the flame of Eadro, he has betrayed you, my soul burns and it’s your fault!” Üdragoth cried anger spilling from every word. Out of the darkness are others consumed by red fire, people I recognize as Byssians. Among them is Agorran.

“Save us Lóin, turn your back on Eadro,” Üdragoth cries, and as he does his mouth sickishly opens wider and wider, till it goes past his neck, and his eyes roll back, revealing gray fogs of emptiness. The accordion, burning in my master’s hands falls to the ground beside me. And I stare at it, unsure, doubt beginning to cloud my heart.

“Did I,” I say. Stumbling for the words. “When I broke it, did I really damn them all? Did Eadro lie to us? To me?”

My words were met with only agonized screams of damned souls, tormenting my soul, making it question. Making me wonder, “had it all been for not. Everything I’ve done, every sin I’ve committed. My wings, my father, my master’s soul, are they all lies?”

“You are an igit among igits.” A familiar voice rings in my mind. “How many times in two days do I need to save you, boy?” my master’s voice growled, but not like the burning visage before me. Suddenly a flash of green light surges through my mind, returning me to my proper age, my proper strength. “If you are so damned stupid as to believe this half-cocked lie, then play the accordion. Play my song.” I looked down at the burning instrument. I was afraid. The last time I played an accordion, I made a deal with a Dovev. And as I thought about it, it was that deal that led to the priest’s deaths in the temple, and the battle on the wall. To abandoning Cheshire..

“Are you going to play it Lóin?” I looked up astonished at the sound of her voice. Cheshire stood on the other side of the fire smiling. She bent down and picked up the accordion, not bothered by the flames, and I could see that they didn’t hurt her. She held it out to me. “Can you play it? Or are you consumed by the lies?” Once she held a similar instrument. I remember that all my woes here in Byss began with that damned instrument. Now it’s all I want to grab it, but I’m afraid.

Still I reach out for it, but withdraw from the heat. The flames hurt me, but Cheshire, my most beloved friend stood on the opposite side of these flames. If I wanted to be in her light again, then I had to cross these flames. My hands slowly took the instrument from her, and I winced at the unbearable fire that scorched me, but I took the instrument and allowed the fire to lick me, an agonizing feeling, but as I pushed the instrument in on itself, and the sad lamenting sound echoed into the chaos, I felt a green haze soothe the fire, I looked at Cheshire again, still smiling, innocent, and hopeful, and I played my master’s song.

“There was once an accordion player who didn’t go to war.
His mother said I know all you wanna do is play but can’t you see what’s going on?
It’s not about you anymore,
It’s not about you anymore.
It’s not about you anymore,
It’s not about you anymore.
It’s not about you anymore,
It’s not about you anymore.”

With another push of beautifully sad sound, a wave of green light resonated out of the accordion, extinguishing its red flame, and causing the visages of horror to dissipate back into the darkest recesses of my soul.

“And so he stayed and played at home until they burned it down.
And when there was no bench to sit on he would just sit on the ground.
And when he held his wounded friend in his arms and death was all around.
He said,
It’s not about you anymore,
It’s not about you anymore.
It’s not about you anymore,
It’s not about you anymore.
It’s not about you anymore,
It’s not about you anymore.

Oh Mother, I could die a hero and bring glory to our home.
And what would you do in a house full of glory if you had to live there alone,
Live there alone,
Live there alone,
Live there alone,
Live there alone
So I’d rather play this song.
I want to die playing,
I want to die playing,
I want to die playing,
I want to die playing,
I want to die playing,
I want to die playing,
I want to die playing,
I want to die playing,
I want to die playing,
I want to die playing.”

With a final push, I let the last lamenting note travel and echo through the darkness of my heart. I fell to my knees, and began to sob into the accordion. The song. My master’s lament. My lament. I realized as I played, that as much as I wanted to be like my father, I wanted to be like my master more. As I wept, I wondered if I had ever really mourned my master, or if I had simply swallowed this sorrow that filled this scape around me. I looked up to see Cheshire, still standing there, smiling at me. I pushed the accordion aside and embraced her.

“I’m so sorry,” I sobbed. “Words can’t describe how sorry I am for all I’ve done. I-, I can’t-,” I trailed off sobbing. I felt her hand on my head as she said:

“Save it for the real Cheshire, it’s time to wake up, you survived your nightmare.”

My eyes flutter a moment, dazed. I feel a presence, dark and twisted, and hear a scuffle begin. I bolt upright, confused, and see the giant demon towering over my comrades. It’s a terrifying presence, huge wings that dwarf mine, horns extending from its head, two sets of arms, one of which is pincers instead of hands.

I wipe away the tears from my eyes, forgetting momentarily about the dream, and grab my axe. As I’m about to enter the fray I feel my gravity give way, causing all of us to float. My wings, though new, perk immediately giving stability enough, to float on my own.
I see my comrades having trouble not only with the demon but staying stable in the weightlessness. I rush in and attempt a slash, but the demon moves out of the way, preoccupied with Cheshire. Wait with Cheshire? I look up and see the demon begin to tear into Cheshire, and I pause watching her form float, weightless, blood floating around her. I barely notice the wall of ice Aintai summons near me, I barely notice the demon frantically swiping at my comrades. I think for the briefest of moments what my life would’ve been like had I not met her there in Zebidee’s cave. If I had not been able to share in her happiness for the brief time I was able to.

I feel a surge of anger course in me, as my wings instinctually move me through the air to her. I reach my hand out, screaming in my mind: “Please let me do something, anything to save her. I can’t let her… I can’t let her be taken away!” I feel a warm sensation course over my hand, and I as my hand grasps onto her, a green light glows from it, and slowly her wounds close. I clutch her to me, allowing the green light to cover her, and I look upon her face, I think how peaceful she looks, just like in my dream.

I look to my hands and think. “Right, sea paladin,” just another thing I failed at, just another thing I forget. She stirs in my arms, and looks at me, dazed, confused, and I hope less than angry at me. I try to smile, I try not to cry, the images from the dream filling my mind, I want to apologize, I want to make amends, but not here, not on the battlefield. Only blood falls here. “Sorry, it took so long. I guess I forgot I can do that.” I hope my voice isn’t breaking. “Eadro didn’t exactly give me a manual.” It was lame, just another lame joke. I think I liked it better when I didn’t talk. She smiles at me, the kind smile I used to deserve. It feels me with a small amount of hope, that maybe, I can save the light she held for me. Maybe, I can still be with the friend I love.

“Our gods never give us manuals, but they do give us hope.” These words shake my core. Hope. I was just dwelling on that. I was just hopeful. Yes, our gods give us hope. Eadro and Corellon Larethian shook the world to save my father for me, Eadro reached his hand down and gave me wings to fly, and above all, he allowed me a moment with my master, allowed me the chance to save my master’s soul from Dovev’s twisted design.

Debris flies around us, bringing me back to reality. I look down and see the carnage continue. Oh, right, a demon is in here… fighting a bear. Another transformation of Ulkair’s no doubt. As I watch the carnage looking for a way in to cut the demon down, I hear Cheshire begin to sing. It was a song that she often sang, but just as beautiful as it was, it was sad. It was her own lament, just as my master and I had ours. I noticed where ours was rough, and dark, hopeless almost, hers wasn’t just beautiful, it was powerful, like a light ripping through darkness. I look down at her, I see she’s clutching the pieces of her doll, her sister’s doll. I see from the pieces of the doll sparks beginning to float from them, then a burst of golden light shot from them entangling the demon, ripping a soul from it. Her sister’s soul. Cheshire’s music, Cheshire’s lament, had a similar power to Eadro’s, when he saved my father. Cheshire’s music can call even to the lost souls, even to the edges of madness, where I now reside.

I think back to the battle on the wall, and how her music bent the twisted Ichtaca to its will. How come, its now, in this lost place, that I notice her. The demon howls, a blood-curdling sound, and I sense a righteous anger surge through me. I see Nerida, and the others fighting, and my markings, those burned into my flesh, begin to burn intently as though the holy energy that makes me Eadro’s champion is screaming to fell the dark creature. To strike down the dark and fill the space with the righteous green light of my god. Once again instinctually I let go of Cheshire, and fling myself at the demon. I kick him at a spot I saw Alix strike previously, causing the demon to spin, and with one great swing of Gilgamesh, I tear into the demon’s throat with all of the fury I can muster. Dark blood, spurts from the wound, as the demon gargles curses at us and collapses, followed by my friends, who had been floating above me.

I can’t remember if I too fell to the ground, or if I simply allowed my wings to bring me safely down, but the next thing I remember is the fact that Mimi is still contained in her nightmare.
“I have not encounter this personally but I have, indeed, heard of it. She’s trapped in an arcane nightmare, and someone has to wake her up, and show her that it isn’t real.” Aintai explains to us. Arcane nightmare. “I imagine each of us had some sort of nightmare.” She pauses. “But I don’t know most of you very well, so I certainly wouldn’t know how to wake her up. Someone else will have to do it.” So what I saw in my nightmare was a visage concocted by the demon. Fucking magic. No that’s not fair, magic has saved me more than once. After all my hands can qualify as magic now too, I guess. Still, if that nightmare was only a concoction of a demon, then how much of that triumph was actually me, and how much was the demon?

“Mimi,” Cheshire’s voice pulls me back into the moment. She’s gripping Mimi’s hand tightly, and I can feel her trying to reach into the nether to wherever in the dark scape Mimi has found herself. “I don’t know what you’re seeing, but I know that it’s horrible, and that it’s not the truth, and I know that you feel like you’ll never be accepted. I know how that feels but, that’s also not true because we’re all here for you and we all love and accept you for who you are.” she pauses, “plus, if you never come out of this, who will stop me from dressing like a hoodlum? Or wearing clashing colors?”

“It won’t be Lóin, he has no idea how colors work.” WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ME! Why talk at this moment, why say anything at all, least of all that? How completely boneheaded am I? I step back, and close my mouth, only listening. After a moment, Mimi begins to stir, and she mumbles something I can’t hear, but at least she seems safe. She looks around at us and the hulking demon currently rotting in our doorway. Someone should take care of that.

“Guys, this isn’t what it looked like when I fell asleep…. I thought we were supposed to be safe in here.” A good point. How did the demon find us? I presume the vampires sent him, but the cabin was safe, supposed to be anyway.

“Ulkair didn’t let the demon in!” Nerida interjects. I assumed that, but given Ulkair’s connection to this place, perhaps it isn’t implausible to assume him. Still, he seems dedicated to Nerida, he even looks pretty beaten up, after that fight. If he did send the demon, they made it a very convincing show.

“Did everyone else have really bad dreams, too?” Mimi asked rubbing her eyes. Define “really bad”. I suppose as far nightmares go, I’ve had worse. I even feel a little bit better after breaking down in my dream. But I still can’t help but wonder how much the demon actually had to conjure for me, and how much of it came from my own fears of what the truth is. Still, I look at my hands, hands that I once believed barely had the power to make things, as well as destroy them, now have the power to heal others as well. I feel a weight of responsibility creep into my heart with that realization. My hands can heal, how many more times am I going to forget that? How many more times, is it going to be vital, and all I’m going to do is use these hands to destroy?

Nerida comes around passing out healing magic, which I am thankful for, though I don’t need as much as the others. Instead I sit on my bed, the others already returning to their sleep, or in the case of Nerida and Ulkair leaving the cabin to retrieve the soul for Cheshire. I feel as though I should go with them, something in me, in fact, compels me to, but I ignore it. I instead inspect my hands again, hands capable to create, destroy, and heal. Power beyond which my fingers should have. I listen to Cheshire sing, and as I drift off, I feel one last tear fall, for whom I don’t know, but maybe, hopefully, for myself.

When I awake, I find the hulking demon’s carcass still in our doorway, and I’m a little disturbed. We simply ignore it as we pack and prepare for a fight we’re not sure we’ll win. The others pile into our ever useful bag, and we set off, the cabin dissipating behind us, leaving barely a trace of our short time there.

Once more I’m haunted by a beautiful land tainted by the red sun that looms over us in a sickly way. Like watching something rot, and I hope our time in it is soon done.
With Alix’s help from the bag once more, and another amount of walking, we make it to what appears to be a massive cavern, and from it, energy of some kind flows into the sky towards the sun. I feel another darkness calling from within the cavern making me hesitate, but Nerida and Ulkair are already starting to move forward, and I need to keep up.
Not far into the cavern, we come to the heart of Elysia. Despite being able to see the energies, I notice my eyes are unable to see much else. Actually nothing else. I only notice the stairs because of the positive energy nexus. Mimi’s hand sticks out of the bag, and attempts to illuminate the darkness, but the magic is absorbed by the machines around us. The machines appear humanoid, and I have a bad feeling. Behind them are steps that lead to a giant drop-off, where positive energy is burning down from Byss.

I hear Nerida and Ulkair talking, but I am only half listening, I’m too awestruck by this contraption. “Yes, this is the place.” He seems genuinely distraught, and I can’t help but feel sorry for him. “I didn’t make whatever those statues are, but I did this.”

“But you didn’t mean for it to become this.” Nerida replies, and for the first time I notice them. His sorrow, her need to cure it. It was familiar, like a pleasant dream just on the verge of memory. It reminded me of girl, a frozen lake, and skating. But no matter how I tried, I couldn’t remember.

“No, no I didn’t,” sadness, etched in his words, “but it did, and I am responsible.” He pauses. “Those must be what’s blocking out the sun. They must be draining the negative energy from Elysia, so that the holy energy more fully permeating everything, and then covering the sun in blood.”

A moment of pause. I can’t imagine what the others are thinking, but I know that whatever we do, these things must be destroyed. Cheshire seems to be thinking the same: “So, if we break those, the whole thing will stop?”

“Maybe.” Is our only reply, and the only answer we get.

“Well, well, well,” exultant, arrogant, and dripping with an ancient swagger, which makes me sick. Out of the shadows steps the vampire that one-punched Alix, all of us tense up, none more so than Cheshire.

“Vhailor!” Ulkair growls, but the vampire merely laughs at our merry band.

“I knew you’d come, Ulkair! You have always been so predictable.” He chuckles at us. “I knew you were going to try your little suicide mission, I knew you would abandon your little Byssian friends to their fate, like the pathetic mongrels they are! To try and steal Elysia for yourself!” He looks us three over, as though deciding which meal to start with. “I don’t know what you think you will accomplish, and I don’t know what you people with him think you’re going to get out of this.” He pauses. “Did Ulkair tell you he could fix everything if you just got him to the nexus? Did he promise, he’d make everything he did better?” a struck chord. Promises to make everything better. I had thoughts of that, make everything I had done better. I look over at our wizard, and feel another parallel between us. “Well let me tell you, he made grave mistakes before and it will be no different now. He’s a fool, who only has a fraction of the power from before, and we,” he pauses and smiles at us, “we are immortal blood gods, compared to him,” he chuckles. “Even if we don’t kill you, there’s nothing the likes of him could do, not even here. You are all insects, and I will crush you beneath my boot.” Anger seeps into my blood again, and I grip my axe, feeling a desperate need to remove the space between Vhailor’s head and shoulders. “Ah I see you eyeing my masterpiece.” I look over at Ulkair again, who’s looking at the machines. “What Dovev had was mere child’s play.” At his words, the machines begin to move, and I’m reminded of the amalgamation of body parts that I fought at the wall. “It was laughable to think you had a chance before, now you will face my truly awesome creation, and me.” He laughs. “No surprises this time you shall face all the powers of blood and horror that I have at my disposal.”

Mimi slips from the bag, scythe in hand and flies at Vhailor, I look back at Ulkair as he dumps, unceremoniously the rest of our friends. I hear a cry of frustration and I look back to see Mimi pinned by the Shadow Dancer from the mansion, armless and all, a portal of shadow closing nearby. Behind me I feel the ground tremble as Nerida is struck by the construct. One of the machines we say expelling energy. I feel something telling me to turn and face the construct, but my attention is still on Mimi who is struggling under the Dancer. I feel my legs kick off as I charge at the Dancer. I sense his need to move, but I anticipate it and slash into him. The Dancer ignores me and begins tearing into Mimi, but as I try and swing into him again, he moves out of the way. After another assault on Mimi, I’m about to try and swing into the Dancer, but I notice Mimi break partially away. She flings him and herself, striking him into the stone wall. I suddenly hear Chesire begin to sing, then an explosion of holy energy throws me and Mimi forward a little, and I look back to see Vhailor now in the middle of the floor, and wall of ice surrounding the golem. I see the cascading effects of Cheshire’s magic, but the golem begins spitting out black energy randomly. A beam of which hits the Dancer, and I can see he has been renewed.

I feel another tremble of the ground, and Nerida appears, towering over all of us, growing to the size of the golem and begins tearing into Vhailor over and over, again until he just dissipates into mist. I look up and notice that the blood sun, which had been looking down at us from a hole in the cavern ceiling, is now uncovered shining down its golden rays of light upon us, especially the Dancer. The golem breaks through the ice wall as, I hear a giggle, a little girl’s giggle, and we all stop. Another visitor out of the shadows, a small girl in a fancy dress, appears before us, smiling.

“You all struggle so valiantly, against your inevitable fate. You’re so funny, but you’re so wonderful too. I have an offer for all of you.” I try to move, but realize I can’t. I think that none of us can. A similar trick to Vhailor’s before. I guess we have to listen. But I doubt we’ll be inclined to take her offer. “We’ll make space for your Byssians here. They can be happy in Elysia. We’ll only feed upon there sister city. We’ve been impressed by what you can do, come you have earned rest in Elysia.” Immediately I mentally refuse, the only place I want to “rest” is with Eadro and my master. “We could give you immortality.” No thanks, I barely want to be alive as it is, why would I want an eternal life? “We could give you happiness.” Unless you can bring me back to a few days ago, so I could undo all I’ve done to Cheshire and the others, I doubt you could bring me happiness. “In fact, we can give you whatever you want.” …. I want my master back, and I doubt you can give me that without some sort of string attached. “It’s not like Elysia was a very good place before we got here. It’s really just different now. The shame of what those Elysians did just to make their lives better. I can’t believe you would spend time with one Nerida. He’s garbage.” I feel Nerida tense with anger, something we all feel, but the child only smiles wider. “Please listen to me, I want you to be happy, you’ve proven yourselves, I don’t want to kill you.” She looks at Nerida, who I think growls at her. “Alas they told me you were stubborn, and you’ve proven quite contrary. I sent Tranatheraxxus to give you this offer, and you murdered him!” I feel rage burn in me again. What I did to save my father, what Eadro, and mother did, to twist fate around and bring him back, is anything but murder. “He was so beautiful, I loved him dearly, you’ll pay for that Lóin,” she shakes a tiny hand at me, and I feel more rage course as the feeling of belittlement stings my skin. “I’m going to make you suffer most,” her voice changes to something sinister, dark, and twisted, and I wish I could move, I have a few hand gestures I learned from dwarves to show her. “And Nerida, you’re very naughty, you stole Ulkair from his righteous punishment. Such a pity I had hoped to save you with your holiness and beauty. However, Cheshire will make a fine pet.” I struggle against the spell holding me in place. Pet? Visions of ripping this child to shreds dance in my mind, as my anger seethes and I feel myself start to lose control again. “I do so love music.” Her demeanor returns to that of a little girl as she giggles again.

Suddenly the Shadow Dancer, bursts into flames and I realize that he had been in the sun during the spell, so if he’s burning, does that mean that the spells done. A wall of swirling blades appears around Nerida, Alix, Night Eyes, and Aintai, and I hesitate to move, despite my rage. It seems to be stopped, but only for us to consider her offer. A moment passes, a far too short moment. “No answer from any of you? Okay!” she raises her hand, and I prepare to charge the little creature, when Cheshire stops me.
“Wait! If you spare Alix, I’ll go with you.” The look on her face, the pain, the desperation. I can’t tell if she’s serious, or only trying to fool the vampire, regardless, I feel a pang in my heart, that I know I deserve, and hesitate again.

The child appears to consider this then grins madly. “Good try,” the child replies, and the wall of blades moves into my comrades. Mimi flies at the child, as I see Ulkair, now once again, a stone giant, picking up Nerida and placing her over the barrier, just as the golem strikes him. I chase after Mimi in an attempt to move her and the child into the sunlight, but the child is ready, and instead forces me into the scuffle with them. I feel some of my wounds heal, but am unable to pull my focus away from the child. With a cry of fury, the child rips us away from her and slams Mimi and me together. The force shocks my system, and I feel my head spin for a moment. I never imagined strength could come from such a tiny thing. The child laughs at us, and I feel my head return and with it my anger. I slash at her, but she nimbly dodges, and I curse in draconic. Another wall of ice appears from behind me, attempting to trap the child, but she merely absorbs it into her hand, with little effort, even the arrows that Alix lets fly from wherever he is, thuds into her, and she rips them out. Nerida appears beside me briefly, from wherever she was before and stabs her trident into the child, causing the child to scream. She pushes Nerida and I back, and laughs. “Very good, Nerida, that looked like fun.” She begins to grow, but Nerida and I begin to attack her, Mimi appears beside us, healed by some miracle, and our three attacks connect. She stumbles back, and laughs as she jumps into a beam of negative energy. Mimi charges past me and cuts into her, but, I notice that the swirling energy begins to heal her, and I realize that she has to be removed from it.

Not far from her is the sunlight, a beam of it pouring down from outside. My chance. My wings perk up, ready to fly me, and with a push from my feet, I fly past Mimi into the swirling negativity. I’m able to grab hold of the child and begin to push her out, but as I do, something comes over me, the negativity around me burns into my brain, peeling back, at least a little, the memories I chose to forget.

The image of a red dragon, hulking, massive, and terrible, starring down at my master, behind him is my mother protecting me from it. The dragon roars, demanding I be handed over, but my master, he refuses, ready to die, to protect the last hope of Iarrthóir. The image in my mind dissipates and is replaced with the smug grin of a yellow goblin, his long warty nose pointed and his eyes, shifty, and cunning, wearing a top hat and ragged suit. He tells me that someone I love has been sold away, because our infatuation has caused him to lose profit. I feel an eerily familiar rage burn in me as I watch this image burn before my eyes.

Finally I’m on the other side of the energy, and the visages disappear and I look up to realize the child is screaming in the sunlight. I try to charge her again, but a flash of the lost memories burn in my mind, and I find myself grasping my head. I hear screaming and I force my eyes to focus, I see myself, but I assume its Cheshire taking my form. Again. And Alix holding her in the sunlight. The child is screaming, and finally bursts into flame, and melts away under the sun. I feel a rejuvenation come over me at the sight of the child burning, and I look behind me to see the golem still standing. With new anger, I fly over the barrier of blades and bring Gilgamesh into the back of the golem slicing part of its backing off. It falters slightly, as I see Nerida healing Ulkair. Ulkair stands up and rips the head of the golem from its body, and crushing it, ending its wretched existence. He falls to the ground panting, this was the hardest fight we’ve all fought. I feel relieve, but I still can’t shake the memories I saw in the negative energy, they flash by then fade away, then flash again.
I see Ulkair take Nerida up to the conflux and begin performing some ritual, just as I’m about to listen, to try and understand, my negative memories, those fighting to be remembered, final erupt in full view, and I feel my mind slip far, far away:

*

We were close now, for a moment, I believed we would make it out, that maybe there were others who remembered the tunnel and had escaped, that I could still have my mother and we could still be together. As we approached its entrance, Malum appeared behind us, with an evil smirk. “At last,” he sighed. “I was growing bored and impatient, two things that are very unhealthy you know,” he stared at us, and I for the first time looked into his eyes, and all I saw was hate, and anger, fires that had consumed his heart.

My mother, her conviction just as strong, if not stronger in the face of this death, slipped her bracelet to me, and whispered in my ear: “As long as you have this, both your father and I will be with you. As long as you have this, you know your father and I love you, and that you are our hearts.” She handed me to Üdragoth and the dragon laughed.

“No need to hand him over to that one, I will kill you both if you desire,” Malum smirked.

“You will never have Lóinnir, beast,” she spat.

“Lóinnir?” he blinked in mock confusion. “Light? A foolish name, but as I understand all of you blasphemous creatures take the name of your clan as well, so Iarrthóir, or seeker.” He considered this a moment. “Light Seeker, such a foolish name, even for an abomination.” Malum reached down and plucked my mother up, I could feel my master trembling, the reappearance of Malum had caused fear to return to him. She did not struggle, but looked at me, and smiled one last loving smile, before she was devoured by the red dragon. Seeing this caused my master to scream in defiance, and I to scream in sorrow, Malum looked down at us and laughed, he laughed at our misery, at the pain of witnessing his violent display. For a moment all fear in me disappeared, for a moment, the world disappeared from me, only Malum and I existed. The fear, for that moment was replaced with anger. “You are Üdragoth, are you not?” the red dragon asked. “I had heard about you from your warriors, who so gratefully told me where this compound was,” he stopped and seemed to consider something. “The ones I didn’t eat anyway.” I could feel it, the same anger that filled me, now filled my master as well, but unlike mine which was only hate, his was righteous, his was justice. “Give me the abomination, elf! And I may yet let you go,” Malum said.
My master smirked. In this moment I saw the powerful warrior that my clan so looked up to and admired. In this moment, though I would never see it again, I saw the spirit of the Iarrthóir. “You know, if I was any old elf, I probably would hand the boy over to you, in fact, if I was just any old elf, I’d probably even believe you would let me go. But you see Malum, I’m not. I am Üdragoth of the Order of Iarrthóir, and I say not only will I not give the boy to you, not only will we escape, not only will you never find him again, but I swear he will become the harbinger of your demise. I say that you should fear him, for he will extinguish your flame!” as my master defiantly, valiantly spoke, Malum’s smirk disappeared and he scowled at us.

“Petulance,” he spat, “I have grown sick of your petulance elf, I had hoped to torture the abomination before killing it, but at last I have lost my patience! Give me the boy!” Malum was about to breathe fire upon us, extinguish us forever, but a sound stopped him, and it stopped him cold. The roar of another dragon echoed forth and from the burning sky descended in a majesty of ice and snow, my father, or so I would believe. He landed between us, and roared again.

“Malum!” he cried, and bellowed ice from his mouth just as Malum bellowed fire. But I did not see the conclusion to this, for when my father appeared before us, my master turned and pushed the rock away, and cast me into its dark embrace, before following, replacing the stone as he went.

*

My mind returned if only for a moment. I was on my knees clutching my head in agony. Everyone around me were spellbound by something before us. Right, Nerida and Ulkair. I looked up the steps and saw not only the two encased in holy light, Nerida’s body clearly breaking, but I also saw Cheshire. This caused me pause. For a brief moment I wanted to run up and save them all from whatever was happening. I wanted to stop the world from collapsing around us. It was then that I noticed the cavern’s ceiling falling in. I attempted to stand, but the energy radiating from the three broke into my mind, swirling with the negative energy, and forcing me to peel away, to see another memory.

*

“What do you mean you sold her?!” I exclaimed smashing my fists into the fancy wooden table. Alaster sat across from me, sipping wine, toying with a handful of coins. The eyes he fixed on me were dark and twisted, but his smirk was arrogant, and full of itself.
“Lóin, I can do whatever I so please with my property,” he retorted. “You freaks are, after all, are my property. Your caretaker signed you both away eight years ago.” He swirled the wine and sipped it. “Besides your infatuation with Selene was causing me to lose profit, and if I lose profit all you freaks suffer.”

I could feel my anger rising, not in years had it become like this, full of hate, full of power. “That’s a lie! Where did you send her! Tell me!”

The goblin laughed, and my anger burned more. “I don’t have to tell you anything, you’re property remember, fool. Now get out there and keep performing. Make me money, and maybe I’ll see that we find you another slut to bang in your off time.” He laughed again, louder this time. He reared back and kicked the table, forward throwing me back, making me stumble to the ground. His words burned in my heart, and I felt fire burn in me, red, hot. How dare he say those things about Selene, how dare he take her from me, when Malum already took away my family, and Selene returned light to my life. No more! My rage will be sated, Alaster will burn in my fire!

I stand up, slowly, letting the fire course, I stare at Alaster as he laughs, wine and spit flying from his mouth. I reach beside me, and grab a lantern hanging there. In one fell swoop I’m across the table, smashing the lantern into his face. He falls back with a cry of pain as glass and fire digs into his ugly face. The oil of the lantern covering him, igniting him. I throw the table aside, a bottle of wine shattering over scattered coins, and as I approach I see his face burning from the lantern’s fire. I break off a leg of the chair, and ignite it in another lantern, as Alaster tries to crawl from me, I slowly approach him, he puts his hands up to protect himself, but I ignite him with the chair leg. He screams and its music to my ears as he thrashes about, burning to death. I grab the lantern, I used to ignite the chair leg and pour the oil over him, he screams more and more, as the fire consumes him.

My rage isn’t yet done, as I exit the tent, clutching the ignited chair leg. I walk downthe line of tents, letting each catch fire, humming to myself, thinking about the look of distress, the look of fear on Alaster’s face he paid for his crimes, and his empire will fall.

It wasn’t long before my twisted dance had set fire to all of the Circus of Terrible Wonder. I reveled in the flames as I, the liberator of my fellow performers, watched my good deed. Suddenly I was tackled to the ground, the chair leg knocked out of my hand. I looked up into the angry, shocked eyes of my master.

“Lóin, you igit! What are you doing?” he screamed.

“I did it master, I avenged us all, I avenged Selene, she was sold master. And I avenged her.” I babbled and smiled.

“What are you saying boy?” my master’s eyes kept there surprise, but gained sorrow, a deep, dark understanding.

“I saved us, master, I saved us, I saved-,” the feeling of his hand across my face brought me to reality.

“You fool!” he screamed, tears in his eyes. “Saved us? I’ll show you what your saving has done!” he picked me up with strength I wasn’t sure he had, and he hauled up a nearby hill away from the camp, and threw me to the ground. “Look, liberator! Look at what you’ve wrought.”

I rolled over and looked down at the camp, for a moment I couldn’t tell what he meant. The fire was beautiful, it consumed the hell we had suffered in, but then their screams reached my ears. I saw below me, people running around on fire, burning, dying. Not just fellow performers, but patrons, children, innocents. My hands shook, my stomach twisted. My wrath, burned my new family, the people who took my master and me in, treated us like family, for years. A twisted thought crawled its way through my sick mind. Where was Selene’s father? Where was Hyperion? I scanned the people burning to death, trying to ignore there screams of anguish, trying to ignore the distraught who were desperate to put the others out, but still I couldn’t see Hyperion. Did I… did I kill Selene’s father? In my rage, in my revenge, have I not only killed my family, but also the most important person to Selene?
“Master, what have I done?” I sobbed, the tears coming, uncontrollable. I thought about Malum, his hateful fire consuming my clan. Have I become just like him? “Master, am I like Malum?” I sob out. I feel myself being picked up as master embraces me tightly, his own tears falling.

“Why didn’t I see it in you boy?” my master whispered. “If this hatred was in you why didn’t I see it?” he hugged me tighter. “I’m sorry, Lóin, I’m so sorry.” I embraced him back breaking down, shivering for the first time in my life, feeling cold course my body.

*

“Elysia doesn’t deserve to live anymore!” I hear Ulkair’s words break into my twisted thoughts, bringing me back to now.

I remembered everything. I remembered all that I had sealed away, repressed. I remembered Malum, and Alaster, Selene, Hyperion, I remembered all of it, and I felt sick. I looked back at my hands. Hands capable of healing, but hands that have known complete destruction.

Everything around is breaking and falling, Nerida appears to be passed out, cracks coursing her body, and Ulkair holding her tightly, Cheshire glowing with her own holy energy, trying everything to save our friend. A giant boulder from the cavern’s ceiling fell into the conflux exploding energy around us. Alix and Night Eyes have already clamored up the stairs and stood with Cheshire, Nerida and Ulkair. Mimi and I likewise did our best to fly up to and land with them. It took a moment but we made it. I realized as I was looking around, that Aintai was at the mouth of the cave, was she trying to escape out the front, or had she simply gotten trapped there. Behind us Ulkair’s magic opens a portal to, we hope, Byss.
As we’re about to turn and head through, we hear a scream. I turn and see Aintai, her legs crushed beneath a fallen boulder. The sorceress is struggling, suffering. She looks at us, waiting up on the stairs. “Go on without me! I’ll find another way back!” she screams, and I see in her eyes desperation, but for us, or her?

I had had enough. The memories showed me who I truly was. A monster, who got lucky. A monster in need of slaying. I turned my back on Cheshire, on my friends, and even on my master. I brought down the family that accepted me, and now again I stand in the ruins of actions that destroy lives. I had had enough. No one else should be left behind, we our friends, we are family.

I plunge into the collapsing world, swerving as best I can around the debris. I make it to her, and her eyes hold a hint of hope, but mostly of indignation that I didn’t listen. Too bad. I raised my axe and without hesitation, bring it down on her legs. She screams in agony and it rips into my heart, but I know magic can restore them. But it can’t restore a crushed body. I pull her up expecting the snake-lady to bite at me, but instead she clings to me, and I waste no time. I force my way back to the portal, and I throw us through, the others following behind.

On the other side, we are greeted by the warmth of the sun, the smell of trees, and the sky so blue.

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