Chrysthe swallowed the urge to cry out as she dropped to her knees. The bodies of their tribe members’ lifeless spirits were strewn throughout the center of the village. “The darkness took it all while we were hunting, Emon. We need to run!” The urgency in her voice surprised her. They knew this day was coming why now the attempt at salvation?
Neilos wanted more power. Needed more power. Neilos’s hunger to be a legend led him into the arms of Kala, The Goddess of the Cipher Land. When he abandoned his people the Dagee, he sacrificed their lives. His thirst to rule all Hudtira far outweighed what he had right in front of him. His followers one of the many costs. His own sister, Chrysthe, left to fend for herself.
Emon pulled Chrysthe off the ground and cradled her face between his warm hands. “Unfortunately, my love, there is nowhere we can go. The Darkness will find us. We were all warned years ago.” Emon sighed heavily with the realization this could have been avoided.
“I don’t want to give up Emon.” Chrysthe pulled away from his grasp. She headed for the trail leading to the mountain’s summit. Emon knew she might find comfort in a place they’ve cherished through the years. The only place they could truly be together. Pine needle covered branches reached out to them as they hurried away from the settlement. A hollow sensation followed close behind. An emptiness so vast they could almost smell the cipher edging closer.
Both were silent as they tread up the mountain one last time. The undeniable realization sunk into Chrysthe’s gut as they ascended. Nothing could spare their lives. Blood dripped from her balled up fists. She realized she was digging her nails into her palms soft skin as they reached the trail’s end. Defeat encased her bones.
Chrysthe leaned against the mountain’s vertical slate peak admiring the view of the land. Her head turned toward the river. She joined her fingertips. A blueish hue glowed in the space between her hands, “Vine to vane. Ash to spine.”
“I wasn’t aware that you cared enough about the Nari to protect them,” Emon stated. “After all they’re half the reason we’ve lost our tribe.”
“Yes, but our tribe is the other half of the reason. We started this too.” Chrysthe let out an exaggerated sigh. “No one should have to lose everything. It may be too late but any help I can grant is better than nothing.” Chrysthe’s cheeks burned as her palms tingled. The chant cast.
Emon paced back and forth debating what to do next. “I don’t foresee a way out of this, do you?”
“No. Not now. It’s not time.”
A flash of movement appeared in the corner of her eye.
“It’s too late for us, Emon.”
The Darkness hurtled toward them on the mountain top. Nowhere left to go.
“I love you with all of me, Chrysthe.” A single tear rolled down his face.
“Me, too.” Emon pulled Chrysthe toward him and held her.
This was their end.
They both knew it was pointless to fight the shadows, no one was ready for the change necessary to restore the peace. Without a sound the Darkness rolled in. When the shadows subsided both Emon and Chrysthe were gone.
Beneath the fallen dominion of the Dagee, Neilos stood in his chambers. His stretched hands folded at the waist. Ferena, once a vibrant and prosperous nation is nothing but crumbled buildings cast in the purple clouds. The perimeter of the enchantment guarded by shadows—a benefit of following Kala’s orders. Bulging veins the color of wild violets weaved up his neck like vines strangling a green giant. A deep shadow resembling a human stood beside him—something only few could see. Neilos focused his stare on the mist rising from a stone pillar standing in the center of his rock-walled cavern. The only light source was the glow from his powers and a candle resting on the bone alter.
“Pascentium vitia, spiritus et carbones,” Neilos spoke in a melodic song. His long
chestnut hair shaved to the skin. An outline of a spider reached to each ear, then trailed down his neck. He hasn’t yet earned the right to mark his back.
“Send them back, not further,” an icy gust thrashed past his drawn face.
“They aren’t finished,” he snapped before reconsidering his audience. “They should do more before returning to their hosts.”
“What took thousands of years to build costs more than a week’s work,” the voice sounded closer to a woman’s. The blurry outlines grew more defined. The tip of a pointed nose quickly followed her flushed cheeks. He waited for more details of her to reveal themselves though Neilios never saw her lips. Her brief clarity faded back to an obscurity.
“More can be done.” His voice rushed and frustrated.
“You need rest. Creatures will always have fear and hate. There is no concern of loss here.” Each word the shadow spoke grew louder. Then just like a breeze past the flame of a candle, the voice went out. Nelios now stood alone in his tomb of worship. He nodded at the carved stone reaching from the ground to the curved planchement.
He pressed his fingertips together. “Quaerere nihil magis, sequor domum.”
The purple light coursed from his hands surrounding the stone. His eyes rolled back into his head leaving only vast white orbs framing his nose. The small room’s air grew thinner. Neilos lungs gasped before the air became thin again. Silence filled his mind. He extinguished the candle’s flame with one heavy breath.
Everything grew quiet.
The whispers of failure nagged at the corners of his desperate mind. He chose to focus on the smell of muck permeating from the slop between the stone walls. His mind slowed as he began to pick at each detail of the smell. The lands he stole weighed heavier in the quiet.