To high places through narrow roads
My unconsciousness is not the peaceful blackness it should be. More like I have been pulled out of my body and thrown into a pool of memories, voices, sights and sounds and this time I'm not an observer. The visions do not just pass me by and disappear but run through me, into my mind and ingrain themselves until eventually they mingle so seamlessly that I can't distinguish between my own memories and these alien ones. Then comes sensation; a prickling heat at first and then it turns into pain, a sharp throbbing pain but I'm beyond being able to react to it. I don't even know if I still have a voice box and lungs, let alone a body.
It's unremitting and when it peaks I quite honestly feel like I have split open, split apart and the most treasured, important parts of me have spilled out into nothingness. Then just as I think I'm going to float away on the smallest breeze, my essence rushes back, but it doesn't crash into me with the force I had been braced for. It touches me, slips into me and then gives me form again, like the gradual blossoming of the moon at high night.
My conscious mind comes back gradually like the slow ebb of a flowing river ' uncertainly but insistently.
It feels like I have been out for hours but as I open my eyes and look up into Dante's, nothing has changed. I'm still in the same position on the cold, stone floor and I know, really, only minutes have passed.
Dante helps me into a sitting position; he very carefully avoids my eyes and I can feel his hands trembling against me as he lifts me off of the floor. Once I'm sat up right he steps away from me until his back hits the stone wall behind him and he slides to the floor, boneless.
It all rushes back to me and I turn around to look at Ignea. Only she is not the light I had seen little over ten minutes ago.
I get up onto my hands and knees and crawl towards her now, human form. She is female, naked with her long straight brown hair covering all of her face and led in a prone position on the floor.
My fingers tremble violently as I slowly wipe the hair away from her face, making it nearly impossible for them to be of much use; I get it back across her shoulder and then I see her face for the first time.
It takes my mind a couple of seconds to catch up but when it does, I scuttle away like a frightened child. I drag myself all the way across the room and when I hit the far wall it's still not far enough.
I pull my knees up to my chest and hug myself. I look up at Dante and he's staring at Ignea with the same level of horror and bracing himself with a hand on the wall behind him as if his knees have weakened so much so that he's moments away from collapsing. His body language alone tells me that this was totally unexpected.
When I find my voice is seems strangely grating in the silence of the room, 'Has she always looked like that? Do you remember what she looked like before she changed?'
For a few moments he doesn't even acknowledge that I have spoken but then slowly he turns his face towards me. He opens and closes his mouth a few times and I'm nearly ninety percent sure what comes out of his mouth is not what he was going to say.
'She is before my time, I do not know.'
I study his shocked face and believe him. After all, how often does anyone see someone like Dante - Dante that is part of the Sovereign - shocked senseless? Never I'm betting.
'Then we need to find someone that does know.'
He nods slowly again and his eyes drift from mine down to Ignea's immobile, crumpled form.
I force myself up from the floor and I exit the room without looking back at her; I need to concentrate on the matter at hand and in order to achieve that; I need not to look at her for a moment. Dante follows me out. I stop as I see I have walked out into yet another dark cavern and I wait for him to take the lead so we can leave but he just stands and stares at me.
'Forgive me but the likeness is disturbing.'
I wave my hand in front of myself to disregard his comment. I can't think about that right now, just cannot, 'Do your thing please so we can leave. I need to speak with Alistair and I don't want any arguments. I don't care if he is under house arrest or acting out his punishment. I need to speak with him!'
My voice changes into something I have never heard before; a growl of power and authority. I frown at myself but I get the desired affect from Dante and he nods once at me. He then walks towards me, takes hold of both of my hands and whisks us away without hesitation.
Once Dante's power has retreated away from me I open my eyes, stepping away from him. I look around my surroundings and realise I'm in a bedroom; Ali is stood in the corner near a book shelf with a book in his hand. He has stopped dead in his tracks, his mouth hangs open slightly and his eyes are wide with shock. I see the moment it registers as he looks from me to Dante and he then drops to one knee.
'My Sovereign. I was not expecting you.'
He bows his head and remains on one knee for the duration. His body language is formal but un-rushed, yet somehow I can sense his nerves, regardless of how well he hides it.
'I had no choice but to interrupt you Alistair.'
'My Sovereign, is there a situation I should be aware of?'
'Yes, Dione needs to speak with you.'
He visibly stiffens and I can see by his body language and can read the situation well enough to know he will feel on edge about conversing with me after their little 'discipline session'. Knowing that, I hate to put him in this situation but I need him, not for my own selfish wants but because he needs to see Ignea. Then I know he will have answers ' or at the very least ' some ideas for our next course of action. As Ignea said; he's our key.
'Ali, I need you to come with us.' I whisper.
He remains in his bowed position but he does tilt his head to the side slightly flashing his eyes up to me for a second and then looks away again. Either I have gotten really good at reading him or I have in fact gained something from Ignea's gift. I just suddenly can feel and sense him in a way I haven't ever been able to before.
His nerves, fear and sorrow are present yes, but they are all drowned out by his more immediate, penetrating regret. He regrets everything; bringing me into his life and consequently sentencing me to this, he regrets not fighting back and not leaving the Justice when he had the chance, so much so, I nearly step forward and embrace him but I can't afford the open emotions I know that will cause so I drown it out with my own version of iciness.
'Will you come with us? I need you to see something?' I ask again.
He looks up to Dante and says, 'May I be at ease my Sovereign?'
Dante nods and Ali pulls himself to his feet, straightening himself into his usual graceful posture.
He addresses Dante only, 'I will go where ever you need me.'
'Good then come, we need to go to the room of the Seventh Brethenth.'
'The Seventh Brethenth? Why so?'
'You will see once we have arrived Alistair.'
Ali nods at his Lord and Dante takes hold of my hand once again. It's hard closing my eyes this time because I don't want to lose the sight of Ali so quickly. It feels like I've not seen him in weeks and I miss him incredibly. It takes too much effort - effort I can no longer afford or rebound from - to close my eyes. But I do force myself, why? because what is waiting back in that room for us, is far too nerve racking to behave any other way.
There is no warning this time and I don't even realize Dante has transported us until he tells me, once again, to open my eyes.
I would have given a lot of everything I have left to not be in this room again. I want nothing more than to disappear and forget she ever existed but that won't be an option for me today.
She hasn't moved from the floor. Ali appears two seconds after us and he almost looks at me until he notices Ignea, has to double take and the fallen woman then draws in all of his attention.
'Oh, Lord Avalloc.' Ali whispers.
He slowly walks towards her slightly hunched with his hand out stretched. Just as he reaches her and I think he's going to bend down to touch her, he whips up and spins around to face us.
'Dione, how? What happened?'
'Do you know of the name Ignea?'
'Yes, I know of the name but how does that have anything to do with'?' He points to Ignea and shakes his head in disbelief, 'How has this happened Dione?'
'This is Ignea.'