This is the final chapter for the first part of this series. I will be writing an epilogue, though. Thank You for reading and supporting this series.
The previous chapters can be found here
Nick awoke groggily to a white room. The Saludom, his mind informed him, he’d been asleep for a whole day. The castle felt eerily quiet and he sat up to take note of his surroundings.
Widening his mental field, he could sense two jades on the other side of the curtains that we’re pulled for his privacy. A doctor and a nurse, he presumed. His palm felt tight and he brought it up and curled and uncurled his fingers.
A light pink mark ran from the base of his middle finger to his wrist, where his blade had dug into his palm. Standing, he parted the curtains and started to make his way out of the Saludom and suddenly froze right outside the door.
Fate was here, and her presence never boded well for any situation. She must have lost the connection to his consciousness as soon as he entered the Saludom. He knew the rooms were lined with anti-telepathic walls to keep out attacks on the vulnerable patients.
He reached the ruins of the dungeon just in time to hear Aurora scream.
“What did you see? ”
The unexpectedly soft tone of his voice surprised Aurora. Since she’d refused to tell Quesios, nobody had been talking to her much, leaving her to her own devices.
She couldn’t get the horrific image out of her head. Turning her head, she found Nick looking at the jades bustling around.
“Not something I ever want to see again”
Her voice sounded small and scared, even to herself and she cringed when she heard him sigh.
“We all see things like that sometimes. Things we never want to think of or talk about again. Sometimes, though, it is our stubbornness to not talk about it that damages us and those around us.”
She felt his eyes on her as he lowered his voice a notch and said, “Quesios deserves to know, Aurora. We all do”
That’s what broke her in the end and she explained, with huge gulps, what she had seen.
“Time lapse field”, she heard him say and looked up to see Quesios in front of her, his eyes widened and flitted between hers and Nick’s.
“Maya found a time lapse field,but it must have been almost depleted of it’s light reserves and it collapsed the dungeon, but she managed to keep it working. “, Nick was thinking fast
” Why couldn’t we see it, then? Why only Aurora? ”
Nick stopped to ponder that question. Turning to meet Aurora’s eyes, he admitted, ” I don’t know ”
Then turning back to Quesios, he continued while briskly making his way to the ruins ,” What sources of light did you have in that dungeon? ”
Nobody expected the quiet answer of “None ”
Nick stopped in his tracks at Quesios’ answer and turned around to face him with slightly panicked eyes.
” The only way to charge a time lapse device is to use light. They weren’t made any other way”
The only source of light there is Maya, Aurora thought, imagining her radiant smile.
She only realised she’d said it aloud when both men widened their eyes at her and took off running towards their destination.
Aurora chased after them but she only managed to catch snippets of their conversation. She heard the words life and energy and danger.
It didn’t help the bubble of fear residing in her stomach one little bit.
They had reached the courtyard where the wall of the dungeon had been cleared and Nick immediately dropped to his hands and knees, feeling around with his hands and hissing in pain every time something caught on his healing skin.
“What are we looking for? “, Aurora asked, mirroring his position, desperate to help in some way and to keep away from the wall.
” A raised portion in the ground. Feels a little off. The field trigger must have an auxiliary switch outside itself. Accidents were common”
It was Quesios who found it and scraped away the grass and mud over it quickly.
“Aurora, lead me to where Maya is”
Nick’s voice brought her out of a trance once again and she had to force herself to look towards the scene
Nick was standing inside the dungeon, his body superimposed on the falling rock. It was disconcerting and she had to blink the feeling away.
“To your right…. Straight ahead ”
She nodded as soon as Nick was directly in front of her.
Holding his hand over his head, he asked her where the rock that had been arrested mid-air was located. Once she had guided him, he closed his eyes for a minute before looking at Quesios, who threw his entire weight on the switch, freeing the falling dungeon.
A cyan light engulfed the area, and Aurora and Quesios had to shield their eyes until the light had faded.
There, standing between strewn rocks and broken equipment was Nick, his arms securely wrapped around Maya.
Quesios ran to them instantly and began to help Nick carry her to the Saludom.
She could still not look at the dungeon, though. She wondered if they would have this portion demolished. She pushed a niggle of fear away and turned to follow Quesios, when her stomach suddenly turned. The stress of the day must be getting to her.
Doubling over and dry heaving for a bit, she shook her head and almost ran to the Saludom, getting as far away from the ruins as possible.
It was definitely going to be demolished, she thought as she awaited the jade’s evaluation of Maya’s condition.
It was 3 hours before the jades declared Maya out of the danger zone, the whole castle heaved a sigh. Aurora had stubbornly stayed put outside the Saludom even though she had been obviously dead on her feet.
Nick watched Arderine drape a blanket over the now sleeping girl and smiled. All was well, it seemed. Quesios had been allowed inside to see his daughter while the rest of them had decided to give him the privacy.
It seemed that the jades had finally managed to sit him down and tend to his wounds, he noticed as the older man nodded.
Tired, but bright eyes looked out from what had been Quesios’ shell a few hours ago.
“She’s a bit scared, so it’ll be better if you allow Arderine and Aurora to precede your visit to her “, the visibly relieved man said
Nick nodded. The poor girl had had enough of a scare already.
” I’ll let Arderine know, doesn’t look like this one’ll be up anytime soon “, he joked.
Quesios smiled at his sleeping niece and got up to accompany Nick to Arderine’s chambers.
None of them noticed the restless movement behind them.
Fate shook her head sorrowfully as her little finger turned black and charred. It was too late.
Aurora woke up with a gasp from a dream of burnt pages of a book curling in the black flames licking at them. Sitting up straight, she realised that she must’ve nodded off.
She saw a jade leave the room and asked him in a voice scratchy with sleep, “How’s Maya?”
The jade looked around confusedly for a bit before noticing Aurora on the chair.
“She’s well now, just a little tired. Would you like to see her? ”
Aurora smiled a relieved smile and shook off the last vestiges of sleep and walked in to Saludom to see Maya sitting up on the bed.
” Gave us quite a scare there”, Aurora said as she sat down
“Wasn’t my intention”, the weak voice came back
“Feeling a bit down? You’re not looking very well”, Aurora tried to beckon a jade, but there wasn’t a single one around. They shouldn’t leave a weak patient alone in the Saludom.
“My shoulder hurts.”, she heard Maya say, ” Could you take a look at it for me? ”
Aurora nodded wordlessly and bent over the girl to look at her shoulder.
The odour of burnt flesh and bone assaulted her nose and left her feeling cold and about to retch. She tried to pull back to throw out the vile taste in her mouth when she found she couldn’t.
A black blade piercing her stomach was held in Maya’s hand.
“Maya…” was the only thing Aurora could choke out as blood began to trickle from her mouth.
She heard Arderine shout her name from outside, but the darkness was calling.
“It’s free” was all she heard before everything went blank
Arderine’s scream reverberated throughout the empty Saludom.
The jades had all been found outside, their bodies cold and turning black.
Nick had cursed his folly at leaving Aurora alone when he had, but never in a million years had he envisioned such a scene.
Aurora lay on the floor of the Saludom beside Maya’s bed, convulsions and throwing up blood while Maya’s body was arrested in the position in which she’d stabbed Aurora.
The black blade was a dead giveaway.
For the second time that day, Nick cursed the mentally shielded Saludom for its ability to hide telepathic signatures.
The time lapse field had run out of light, with no sources to charge it with, Maya had used the only thing she could, her own light.
The time lapse generators had never been designed to handle such raw light energy, and instead of simply using Maya’s energy, it fed her dark energy.
Light and dark never match. The dark had progressed too far in Maya, Nick realised with a chill.
The darkness was free. The protectors were gone. Their only hope lay convulsing on a bed.
He looked at Quesios, the eager scientist who was about to lose his daughter for the second time in 42 hours and lamented for him before he steeled himself for what he had to do.
“She has been stabbed by a Dark Scythe”, he began, cold and detached.
Both Arderine and Quesios looked at him, willing him to continue.
“I can save Aurora”,
Arderine inhaled sharply at his words and held her breath, waiting for the catch.
“I need light to purge her system”
That sentence killed any hope that had taken roots in their eyes. Extracting that much light would kill any living being.
Nick knew he needed to handle this delicately. Kneeling down in front of a swaying Quesios, he softly continued, “Maya’s light can save Aurora”
Meeting the eyes of a broken father was more difficult than he had imagined, but Nick held his ground.
“Can’t you save her?”, Quesios asked, his voice as broken as he looked, and Nick knew he wasn’t talking about Aurora.
Shaking his head softly, Nick explained, “The dark energy has progressed too far. There isn’t enough of her left.”
The last sentence was what broke Quesios. It made it immutable. His daughter was gone.
Shaking with grief and running his hand through the still girl’s hair one last time, Quesios nodded and left the room.
Respectfully, Nick stood between Aurora and Maya’s bodies, one still convulsing, the other deathly still.
Closing his eyes and summoning all his concentration forward, he reached into Maya’s damaged mind and willed her to pass her light into Aurora through him.
15 minutes later, Aurora stopped convulsing and Nick dropped to his knees.
Only then did he grieve for the scientist who would never be the same again.
“It isn’t a permanent fix”, he heard from behind him, but he didn’t have the energy to turn around.
“I know”, Nick answered, head in his hands as he looked at the pages of the open book in front of him.
The Living Water – Myth, a magical elixir that is said to purify the light energy in any being.