A bit of a monster again folks. Over the past month or so I have changed quite a lot of this; it's right but I've stopped seeing the errors now so bear with me please. Also, eventually this will be two or so chapters.
Day Thirty One
When I awake the next morning the weight of my burden hasn't left me. I slide out of bed feeling like my feet weigh a hundred tons and my heart even heavier.
I find them both sat around the kitchen table and almost walk from the room again until Levin gestures to the coffee pot on the table and I sit automatically, allured by the memory of its taste on my tongue. It's been so long. I pour myself one and then just sit holding it in my hands, breathing in its mouth watering aroma and when the cup finally gets to my lips, I forget the world for a few moments.
Even though Levin's voice only whispers into the room I still jump. "Alistair and I have been talking and we think it will be safe enough for you to stay as long as you agree to stay at my home the whole time."
I give him a nonchalant look and get up from the table without saying a word.
"Dione wait, we need..."
I muffle the rest of his words by putting my hands over my ears and I walk out towards the living room. I'm just not awake or ready enough for the argument that is inevitably coming.
When I resurface again I walk into the living room and am met by a lot of spell casting paraphernalia I don't recognise. Chalked into the floor is an emblem in the shape of an obscure triangle with diagonal lines running through the length and breadth of it with delicate symbols circling the whole thing. On the three points of the triangle are what looks like pieces of old personal belongings; a weathered, tattered cloak; a pocket watch and a strange curved little dagger, all of which looks older than Arroba itself. There are many black candles around the room, alight and a combination of many different herbs have been scattered around the room and into the bronze bowl in the centre of the emblem, which smokes relentlessly. I smell Bay leaves, Rosemary, Amaranth, Angelica and Buchu leaves. The combination of herbs confuses me; the first two yes, as these are used in most spells; Amaranth is known for its protective abilities and for use in calling spirits, less common but still plausible for this kind of summoning spell but as for Angelica and especially Buchu Leaves? One, Angelica is used at the beginning and end of all powerful rituals but only ones where the caster would possibly need protection against whom or whatever they were calling. Do we need to protect ourselves against Lord Avalloc? As for Buchu leaves, well this is so obscure all I can remember is that when burned Buchu can bring prophetic dreams but how does that have any relevance to what we are just about to do? I would ask but with feeling the height of the nervous tension in the room my own nerve fails.
As my eyes scan the room and find Ali and Levin, I see what they're doing and I instantly rush over; doing a kind of wobbly hop-scotch all the way there, avoiding everything on the floor as much as possible.
"What the hell?" I say watching the blood drop lazily into the chalice sitting inches below their hands.
"It is necessary for the spell, my light."
"But your wrist? Isn't that dangerous?"
He gives me a sincere smile, which also means I'm being a little naive and Levin shakes his head at me.
Okay, well, yes they are both immortal but that still doesn't mean I'm not allowed to react like a mortal. It's just unnatural to see two guys stood letting themselves bleed out from the wrists and automatically think, 'Oh, it's okay because they can't die!'
"Is this all for Lord Avalloc?"
"Yes, we are nearly done. We are just waiting for one last thing and then we can start."
"What else are you waiting for?"
I spin around and find Freya at our backs stood at the very far end of the room. I frown at her and try to understand why they have called her and then the penny drops and I turn to the men and gape.
"Her? She's the sacrifice?"
Ali and Levin nod at me and then I look at Freya and she nods also. Oh crap!
I carefully walk around the chalk and go to her, talking her by the arms.
"Freya, thank you for such a wonderful offer but I can't let you do this!"
She cocks her head to one side and smiles but it doesn't come out at all the comforting one she tries to make it; more wistful and nervous and that makes my stomach drop, causing me to lose my breath for a few moments.
"No Freya, you can't do this, please."
"My child, I am an old crone. I have had a plentiful, wonderful life and cannot think of a more wonderful way of ending it. After all, we cannot live without Danu but you will survive without me."
"Freya please, you once persuaded me of how much I was needed here, that something's are just bigger and more complicated than you first realise; this is one of those moments. We - I
will need your skills and knowledge once things have been sorted here. But more so, you don't deserve to die! You have years left inside of you. Please don't do this!"
"My child, the decision has already been made, my name already carved into the floor and my blood already mixed with theirs. It has already started and I give myself willingly."
I spin around away from her and ignore her oh-so-reasonable words.
"Alistair, how can you let her do this?!"
He finishes tying the end of the bandage against Levin's wrist and walks away to the other side of the room and picks up one of his books; turning the pages with slightly shaking hands.
"Alistair! How can you let Freya do this?"
He leans into the book within his hands and whispers into the fibres of the pages. The book begins to glow a blinding electric blueness. The radiance of it shines through the room and seems to burst within us all.
"You know someone has to do this and it will not be you, Dione. Anyway, it has already begun, can you not feel it? Lord Avalloc has accepted her."
"Ali, no, please..."
The room begins to rumble; the vibration of it cutting my words off in the air, mixing them with the pulsation of itself and that's when I realise he's right. Lord Avalloc has already begun his arrival.
The glowing book dims to a comfortable level and Ali places it in the centre of the emblem and lights the bowl of herbs. The smoke wafts up and circles in the air; it dances and plunges and then rises and falls again in the most beautifully intricate dance. Then it starts to move around the room, completely by its own power and touches each of us; it stings along my skin in short bursts and then, seeming unsatisfied, it turns to Freya. I see her smile, a wondrous, contented stretch of lips and my gut hits the floor.
Is this really happening?
I need to go to her; to take her away from this but I just can't move my feet. The smoke swirls around her and then Freya inhales; the smoke sliding through her mouth and nose. Her eyes flash open wide for a second and then she smiles again, lazily, her head lulls back and then all conscious tension drains from her. I know her body is going to hit the floor, like dead weight, a second before it happens, yet I still startle from the sudden movement and am completely unable to move or help.
"Freya, no!" I scream
"Dione, it's alright, she's just unconscious. It helps prepare her mind for what's to come."
Levin's voice is there in my noisy mind but it doesn't truly register. I collapse to the floor and wrap my arms around my knees and begin to rock.
This isn't happening! Ali wouldn't let this happen; this isn't happening!
The two men begin to chant in a language older than I can recognise and the hairs rise all over my arms and back. By this time the magic in the room is immense and totally inescapable. I feel as if I were to reach out I could wrap it around my hand as if it were a physical, tangible thing. The vibrations in the room find renewed energy and I hide deeper within myself, going to my nice static place... I am safe there, or so I think.
Ali and Levin begin to chant again and the atmosphere starts to drag me back out of my oblivion, pressing my conscious mind to the front and preventing me from grounding myself; forcing me to be here and totally aware. My head snaps up and I instantly scramble away until my back hits the far wall and then I still continue to try to push myself through it, and away.
In the central markings on the floor now stands a tall figure with its back towards me...
"Lord Avalloc." I whisper.
The figure very slowly turns towards me and if I could move I would have covered my face and screamed like a child but my body isn't going to grant that salvation for me. He turns towards me; my eyes widen and then the air in my lungs seems to clot into something unmovable and I can't breathe.
It's a man, who has to be around seven feet tall, with a long, extremely lean body and jet black hair; darker than Ali's, cut into a bob you would normally expect to see on a woman, but that's not the scariest thing; the most frightening thing is, his face.
He's deathly pale, his eyes the exact same colour as Ali's, as if Ali had inherited it from Lord Avalloc directly but with one major difference; the pupils in Ali's eyes are always small, letting the colour around them dominate his eyes but with this man's they swallow most of his eyes, leaving only a little ring of colour to highlight them; as if Lord Avalloc comes from an even darker place than Arroba, if that's at all possible. Then there are his high cheek bones, wide, blood red mouth and everything after that is black and I mean black. From his lower lip across to his ears and down his neck and disappearing into the opening of his red shirt, is black. Not like African black but Jakisher - the Demon - black.
I finally get the energy to look away and I hide my face in my knees.
Who is this monster? Lords do not look like that in my imagination; they are suppose to be god-like, shining and serene, not resemble some kind of monster which has been thrown up from the deepest, most terrifying depths of hell. Has Ali made a mistake? Is this really Avalloc?
The hairs on my neck stand to attention again and I shiver so badly I hear my vertebra click a little. I know he's close; his attention on me, and I just can't look. I feel as if I were to lock my eyes with his again my soul would crack with ice and disintegrate inside of me.
"He has made no mistake. It is I."
The Lords voice rumbles with magic and my entire essence reacts to him like a well of water. I feel my essence snake to the surface and stretch out underneath my skin. I concentrate on trying to sedate it but it doesn't react to me, instead becoming more stubborn. It bursts forward to fill the rest of me and all I can do is squeeze my eyes shut and pray for strength, but to whom? Our Goddess has been banished. Then it clicks.
That must be why he's affecting me so much; the balance has been tipped. There is suppose to be an even balance between Lord Avalloc and Danu; they keep the world of Arroba an equal place, from evil to goodness and through them - everything. Without the other side he will affect us all so much more than he would if Danu had still been present. But is that good or bad? What do I truly know of Lord Avalloc...? I know the males of Arroba tend to worship him because he is their male figure - their father - but what if it's more than that? What if Lord Avalloc is not just the male in all of this, but the bad to Danu's goodness? If that's the case then with Danu absent, we may be in so
I find renewed confidence in my thinking and am able to raise my head and look at him. His eyes have narrowed to slits but his mouth tells a different story, with a sly, knowing smile.
I look over to Ali and Levin still stood in exactly the same place and try to judge their mood. Are they as alarmed as me? Do they feel the seething, dark power radiating from him as much as I? I try to focus but it's as if a misty cloud has been laid over my judgement, obscuring it all. My attention flips back to Lord Avalloc and that's when he begins whispering in my mind.
At first I think it's just my mind playing tricks on me but then I feel the pull of him
and the change in my emotion and I know he's manipulating me.
I get to my feet without thinking and take a step forward, but luckily I catch myself in time and I immediately take that step back.
"Why are you calling to me? Freya is the one to be sacrificed; she has given herself to you."
He cocks his head to the side like a bird of prey and smiles again. There is no humanity in his eyes, just a blank, darkness so deep I feel if I were to stare too long I would fall into a world of thick, dark energy that is so powerful I would never be able to fight it. It would swallow me without difficulty or remorse.
I avoid his eyes and ask my question again and this time he answers me, "This woman is a satisfactory sacrifice, yes."
"So, why are you interested in me? I can feel your pull."
I hear one of the men draw in their breath sharply but I can't look; the Lord has sucked all of my attention and it's a fight not to do just
as he asks.
"I did not know such a person still existed within Arroba. An Arcis of power such as yourself; how can I not be intrigued?"
"I don't understand, what is an Arcis?"
Ali calls from behind the Lord in quiet, uncertain words, "It means fortress; he is calling you a fortress of power."
My eyes quickly flick to Ali and I see the fear within his own, but then I simply have to look at Avalloc again. The urge being so great that my eyes do as they please even before my mind clicks into play.
"I now understand the meaning to the word, Lord Avalloc, but I'm still unsure of the way in which you mean it."
"A fortress because you have the ability to lock everything out but also because so much has been locked within yourself as well. It is a bilateral thing, which impacts equally as deep on both sides. No one has processed this since Challis."
"Yes. She is of the Goddess Danu directly, as am I to Alistair."
I look over to Ali for help and he very carefully rounds the room; I notice a fine shaking rippling his long cloak but by his face you would never guess the nerves that lay beneath his facade. He stops at my side and drops to his knee, bowing for the Lord.
"I request permission to help Dione understand your ways, Lord Avalloc?"
Avalloc nods once and even though Ali had not seen the gesture, he immediately stands up straight and begins talking.
"He means that Challis is the true direct descendant to the Goddess, as is Ignea. Like my father and my uncles are direct descendants from Lord Avalloc and then, through them, me. You are a child of the Goddess as I am a child of the Lord."
I pinch the bridge of my nose for a few moments, pushing my mind for a willingness to understand.
"Are you saying I have the Goddess' essence within me directly and you have his? Not some watered down version like every Amarian possesses, but the real McCoy?"
I look at Avalloc and for some reason I don't quite believe it.
"I feel your mistrust, Arcis. Let me explain further; Alistair is the last Numinous on this plane, as you are the last of the great Witches but I am the originating source, as is the Goddess the originating Witch."
"Are you saying you're a Numinous?"
"Yes, that is precisely what I mean. Where do you think Alistair gets his eye colour and hair from? His power? Where do you believe you acquired your rare eye colour and rich brown hair from? You are both our children. My confusion comes from the belief that Challis did not produce an heiress to her magic. I thought she was the last and therefore Danu's line had ended at that point - this is a wonderful surprise."
"Alright, I think I understand but you feel different to me; Alistair feels warmer and good; you, well you feel darker, more intense. How is that so, if you are the same?"
The Lord moves for the very first time and walks a very tight circle within the emblem; the magic embedded through the floor preventing him from moving any further.
"I am thousands of years old, my Arcis; my power has adapted over time, as Alistair's has and will."
"Are you saying he will eventually become as powerful as you and live as long as that?"
"No, I am saying he will eventually become more
powerful than me and live longer
I snort with sarcastic humour and turn and look at Ali expecting to see the same reaction to the downright ludicrous statement but all Ali can do is look at me for a split second and then he avoids my eyes completely.
"Ali, do you believe that's true?"
He nods once at me and folds his arms over his chest; it's his defensive 'Don't blame me' stance.
"You knew this and you didn't tell me?"
"There is never a right enough time to tell your love that you are destined to become so powerful you will no longer be able to walk with their own people. There is never a good enough moment to tell you I will become something I do not want to be!"
His anger heats the room and I'm glad for it; I want him to feel, to hold onto his passion for whom and what he is because by the looks of things, he will need all of that and more, to save himself... eventually.
"Why does everything about Arroba have to be so cruel, Lord Avalloc? Why does there have to be any responsibly or ranks or burden. Can't Alistair and I just live like everyone else and be happy?"
He does that strange head tilting gesture again and frowns at me; a light rolls through his eyes much the same as will do in Ali's every so often but the Lords are a search light and Ali's, a mere torch, in comparison.
"Why do the Amarian people seem to be so ungrateful for their gifts?" He asks back.
"I didn't mean it like that but all the same it seems as if Ali and I are dealt the short straw every time."
His brows crease again and Ali steps in to help him understand.
"She means, my Lord, that it feels as if we are given a lot of hard decisions and bad luck by the fates."
"Well this I understand. Your whole lives have been a test - a challenge - as they have needed to be. You both need obstacles and problems to rest upon thee to strengthen and prepare you for much harder times."
"You're saying my miscarriage was a product of my own destiny? Are you saying I lost our child to teach me my own strength?"
Ali places his hand on my shoulder and I shake it off. I have a right to be pissed because if this guy tells me I lost my child for the 'greater good and I will realise that one day'; I swear I'm going to scream.
The Lords face twists with confusion and he looks to Alistair for guidance, guidance Ali can't give because he has not spoken of my miscarriage since it happened; it seems it's still too painful for him, even acknowledging it.
"You say this with such pain, Dione. I do not understand your very intense reaction to this occurrence, so forgive me if it seems I lack empathy. I am not even sure how empathy feels anymore, let alone these other, more complex aspects of the human condition. But you must try to understand that everything happens for a reason."
"It would have been the most powerful heir to the throne of Arroba and it still had to die did it?!"
I shout the words at Avalloc and that's when Ali forces me into the circle of his arms. I try to fight him but that's when the anger comes, bursting through me like a rush of a stampede - unstoppable - and it immobilises me. I let myself feel the void inside for the first time in weeks; the void that should be filled with the love of my special child and I seethe. Yes, I had not been ready for a kid but I still loved that unborn, stranger of a child; our baby.
"I apologise Lord Avalloc, this is still a very sore subject for us, both."
"Please, no apologies."
I feel Avalloc back away from us a little because I feel his essence go with him - retreating like a tide of an ocean - and then I can breathe a little easier but that doesn't help my rage. With more breath in my lungs my earlier quick breathing turns into something almost frantic and Ali squeezes me harder into him.
A few moments later and I manage to get myself back under control; squashing all my anger down into the roots of me. I manage to take a few deep breaths without sounding like a woman in midst of despair and that's when Ali lets go of me and we stand side by side once again facing Lord Avalloc.
"Lord Avalloc, I'm sorry."
"As I said to Alistair, please no apologies. Now you are feeling a little better maybe it is time I... fetched my Danu."
Ali, Levin and I all do a slow confused look at one another but Ali is the first to recover and speak.
"You're going to find Danu?"
"That is correct."
"Uh, excuse my confusion, Lord Avalloc but we thought Freya was to die and pass over so she could retrieve the Goddess. Is this wrong?"
"Yes, a little of the essence of the witch Freya was needed to summon me but she will not need to die, after all, you whom summoned me are not just average Amarians, are thee? Such drastic measures will not be needed... this time. So, now that you have helped me manifest, I can now look for Danu."
"When you have found her will she return here to help us mend things or will she go back to her plain? Will you need to be put back as it were? Will you both?" I ramble.
He gives a delightful chuckle and says, "All will be mended in due course and neither of us will need your help in returning; you have already done the hard part. I must depart now; time is not on our side."
"Uh, Lord Avalloc, one more thing. I would like to ask quite a personal question but will you be offended if I do?"
"For you my Arcis; I will answer any question."
"Thank you, um, well I was wondering..." I glance over to Ali giving him a 'please don't be mad with me look' and then continue, "The darkness I feel in you, well I guess I wasn't totally honest when I said Ali doesn't possess that because he does just not as intensely as you. My question is; will that become a problem or is he just the balancing weight that I require for my lightness as Danu is to you?"
He smiles a truly beautiful smile that reminds me so much of Ali - the sort of smile he will give on very rare occasions - that I feel a little awe struck for a few moments.
"I believe you already own the answer to such a question, Dione. You feel it within your heart because you are such a creature of Danu. She once worked the same way; letting her heart rule her head. She was such a loving, wondrous being."
He looks down wistfully and I feel the pull of his pain for things lost to him, causing me to almost raise my hand and reach out to him.
"It saddens you that things aren't like that now?"
"Of course, we are no longer beings, Dione. We are entities and entities don't have the luxury of emotions, happiness and freedom. It is just the way it has to be but it still does not release me from my own memories. Danu and I were once just as normal as you and Alistair. I mourn for those days but I have also accepted that I am the keeper; manager; watcher of all things. Just like owning a hotel or restaurant; I have a duty to fore fill."
"I don't want to be an entity, Lord Avalloc; I just want us to be us, for as long as possible."
"And you will be, for as long as possible Dione, that is all I can promise."
I look up at him and my own face matches his in the intensity of our sadness; his though, ripples through the room like shock waves manipulating water with its supersonic flow and it pats against me physically.
"I must leave and retrieve our Goddess. This will take around twelve Arrobian hours, so rest within this time; you will need all of your strength when we return, all four of you."
We all say, "Yes, my Lord," in unison and then he begins to fade, gradually and as I look harder at his disappearing form I'm sure I see a ghost of a beating heart within his chest. Then he vanishes and we all look at each other like we've just witnessed the coming of a tidal wave and somehow were spared, against all odds.
All three of us walk around like zombies; we collect Freya from the floor and put her to bed, and then we potter around the house doing strange, insignificant things until eventually all three of us find ourselves in the living room together. We dump ourselves into the chairs and just stare into space for what seems like hours.
"Did that really just happen?" Levin whispers into the quiet of the room and both Ali and I click back.
"Yes, but what worries me is what is to come next" Ali says from beside me.
"But when Lord Avalloc finds Danu they will fix things, surely?" I say.
"Yes, my light, I hope but they have not been active in our manners for many years. Why would it be different now? With the Goddess restored they could feel no obligation to help us what-so-ever."
I stare at them opened mouth.
"That can't be right, Ali. They have to help!"
"Why do they? After all, Arroba is our responsibility isn't it? They are our source of power and guidance yes, but they do not make a habit of intervening. I think you will find that we will have to fix this ourselves."
"We can't do this alone. The last week has proved that! Pandora will just take over like before and we'll all be back where we started! I'll be locked up again but this time I'll almost certainly have a worse time!"
The two men dip their heads in stereo and say nothing.
Great, just fucking great! We get that close to bringing down the Sovereign with some 'out of this world' help and now I'm being told they might not help anyway. What is going on? Maybe I have different ideals to everyone else here but if it were Earth and our government were corrupt and were torturing people then someone would do something... they wouldn't be allowed to carry on and it should be the same here. Yes Ali, Levin and I can try our best but in the end we are only three and not nearly powerful enough yet to rid the Amarian people of their rotten Sovereign.
"This is ludicrous! They have
to help us!"
"My light, let's just wait and see what happens. We can, after all, appeal to them for help and they may grant it."
He cuts me off with a finger on my lips, "What we must do now, is rest. The Lord is correct; we will need all of our strength for tomorrow."
I sit back into the sofa and fold my arms across my chest. He's right of course because tomorrow will be the crescendo; it has to go to plan. That thought weighs so heavily on me; how am I supposed to sleep?