Chapter 18: The End of an Era
Cygnus paced in small circles with excited anticipation for Alice’s arrival into Edelstein, but at the same time was still concerned about her newly released powers as Minerva’s successor. And then there was the fact that her knights had begun treating her differently and that she no longer needed Tzarax; so many thing were changing that she wanted to remain the same ever since her powers were no unleashed. She almost wished that her powers hadn’t been fully released.
“Eckhart! I told you that I don’t want you to refer to me in that way! I am still only your empress!” Cygnus snapped when she saw that Alice was also with him.
“My apologies Eckhart, but please, do not call me goddess, it is something that I do not bare the right to have.” Eckhart sighed disappointedly, nodding his understanding before turning to Alice and bowing his goodbye, leaving the two of them to speak.
“What transpired here?” Alice asked, slightly confused.
“A recent battle has revealed that I am the heir of Minerva’s power. And thus my knights have dubbed me ‘goddess’. I’m sorry; I don’t wish to impose personal issues to you. Welcome to Edelstein Alice Teawrite.” Cygnus said with a smile, extending her hands in greeting.
“Thank you go… excuse me, Empress Cygnus. Tell me, why is it that you don’t wish the title of goddess added to your name?” Alice asked as Cygnus led her to an area where the two of them could sit and talk.
“I have always had a picture in my mind that despite being the Empress, that I can still be approachable, personable; not out of reach to the people of Ossyria. Replacing the title of Empress with Goddess makes me feel as though I’m becoming something beyond, out of reach to the people.” Cygnus explained, as Alice smiled.
“Empress; their calling you goddess is not elevating you to an unreachable status. They are showing their joy for once again having the goddess return to them. Minerva was only escalated to the status of one when she began living in the Palace City of Orbis. She may have taken on the title as such a bit too literally however thus giving her the appearance of being unapproachable.” Alice explained while Cygnus poured them a cup of calming lavender tea.
“But I don’t want to be disconnected from my people as she was.”
“Then take the initiative and don’t be. You may be her successor, but you are not Minerva. You are Cygnus, and nothing will ever change that fact.” Cygnus quietly set down her cup and laughed to herself and leaned back in her chair.
“I suppose I am only worried as to what this could mean for me, and for those around me.” Cygnus replied, looking over to Tzarax as he slept just outside the room used for a throne.
“They always have, and always will be there as your companions. Give it time, and make your own mark on Ossyria as Goddess Cygnus.” Alice’s words gave Cygnus some peace of mind, despite the fact that she still felt uneasy about the future since now she was the one that had the power to defeat Clytemnestra. But knowing Brilliance, he would never allow her to do something so reckless.
“A knight to the very core.” she thought when Mercedes and Phantom hurriedly came into the throne room.
“Lady Cygnus, I am sorry to disturb your meeting here, but you must come quickly. Lady Alice if you would join us as well, your assistance could be useful.” Mercedes said.
“What’s wrong?” Cygnus asked as she and Alice both followed after them, walking quickly through the streets of Edelstein.
“It’s Evan and Mir; something is terribly wrong, but I don’t know what.” When they arrived, Dr. Kim and his assistants had already begun to monitor them through the complex machinery they brought from Omega sector before evacuating. As they neared, Alice slowed her pace to a solemn walk leaving Cygnus to canter to them alone, pushing through the small crowd that had gathered outside their little house to see the both of them laying side by side, clinging to each other’s hand.
“Dr. Kim, what’s…”
“It’s that golden mark on Mir’s back; it’s returned with a vengeance. The only thing we’re able to for them right now is to make them comfortable.” Dr. Kim interrupted gravely, walking over to one of the machines and shutting down the monitor before grabbing a syringe of a clear liquid and setting it on the table next to Mir’s bed.
“This can’t be! They’ve gone through a Life Binding! They should be able to live for many more years!” Cygnus exclaimed just as Alice weaved through the crowd to stand next to her.
“So that explains the strange feeling coming from these two.” She said, closing her eyes trying to prevent the small tears in her eyes from falling.
“Alice! You could do something! You could…”
“Cygnus! I may be the Transcendence, but that doesn’t give me the power to stop one’s death.”
“You can’t just let them die! They have a child!” Alice shut her eyes tightly: A child’s parents dying was always hard, but this wasn’t something that she could stop.
“Cygnus, listen to me. From what I can sense Mir should have died 20 years ago, but something happened to prevent that. What you just said about them performing a Life Binding explains it. Mir’s time should have been back then, but with the binding it made Mir live beyond what she should have. She and him both have been living on borrowed time: I surprised that they lived eve this long.”
“What do you mean?” Cygnus pressed just when both Mir and Evan tensed up in pain as the medicine began to wear off.
“This young man has been living for the both of them for quite some time. When a Life Binding is performed, it takes the life forces of both and combines them so that time is slowed to at least half for them, doubling their life span. When it is done with a Dragon while they are still quite alive, the life span is often quadrupled, if not quintupled because of a Human’s stubborn will to live. This life binding was completed with only a small spark of life left within the dragon; it did indeed slow the process, but it was completed too late.” Cygnus looked to the two of them just as the mark of Mir’s back flashed, making both of them curl into a tight ball of pain.
“Isn’t there anything you can do for them?” Cygnus asked, thinking about how Eva would take the news of her parent’s death when she was still so young.
“No; it may be too early for this young man, but the time of this dragon has come. The life binding can be canceled, but that would only give the young man a few hours more at most and the dragon would die instantly.” The clouds gathered overhead, almost as if the sky were about to cry with them, turning the whole area a dull grey color. Behind them they could hear the sound of children laughing and playing as they ran back into town when Cygnus heard the voice of Eva just outside the crowd.
“What’s wrong? Did something happen to mom or dad?” She asked. Cygnus did the best she could to dry her eyes off, turning to face her, still trying to hold back the tears that were in her eyes.
“What’s the matter?” She asked innocently.
“Eva, come here darling, I have something important to tell you.” Mir called. Slowly Eva walked through the maze of people, her face becoming worried as she approached when she saw the intravenous lines in Evan’s and Mir’s arms. To her young eyes, her mother who was normally so strong and alive appeared to be weak and gaunt which was made worse by the poor lighting from outside as she stood beside her bed.
“Eva, darling; do you know what’s happening?” Eva reluctantly nodded her head, not wanting to acknowledge that her mother and father were both fading from Ossyria right before her eyes.
“I’m sorry that it has to be this way. The years I had with you and your father were some of the best I’ve ever lived.”
“No, no you can’t be going away! You promised that we’d go the cave of life once this battle with Clytemnestra was all over!” Eva cried as Mir put her hand on the side of her head, wiping away her tears with her thumbs when she was overcome by a jolt of pain as the mark on her back flared once again. Eva looked to Cygnus, and then looked over to Alice as if asking them to do something to keep them alive.
“Your Mother and father both love you very much Eva. And there is nothing, not even death that can change that fact.” Alice said, though she was well aware that such words would do little to hold back the child’s grief.
“And what would you know about my parents?! Who are you anyway?” Eva asked angrily. Phantom was about to reprimanded her when Alice held up her hand and stopped him.
“I am Alice Teawrite.” Eva dried her eyes slightly, thinking back a bit when some of her friends had said The Guardians had rescued some ‘beautiful blond in a green dress’, later finding out that she was the Transcendence of Life.
“You’re the one The Guardians rescued! You can save my parents!” Eva said hopefully.
“No young one, I can’t, not this time.”
“But you’re the Transcendence of Life! You can save them!” Eva argued, walking around Mir’s bed to face Alice directly.
“I’m sorry child, but life is not something that should be extended for one’s own convenience. Life is not meant to be eternal.” Alice said sadly, putting a hand on her shoulder until Eva pushed it off and began beating on Alice’s stomach.
“No you can’t let them die you can’t, you can’t, you just can’t!” she screamed over and over again as Alice hugged her firmly, waiting for her to calm slightly until Eva put her arms around her tightly.
“I wish that I could young one; my duty is to protect life while it exists. Your mother and father both have had a full life, despite it being cut short of watching you grow into a young woman. Death is hard on anyone, even the iron willed heroes have lost loved ones. I cannot change what is happening to them, so until they pass let their last memories be of them spending it with their daughter, their most prized of positions.” Alice soothed. Further back in the crowd stood Mercedes, stubbornly crossing her arms and refusing to speak with Evan, even now in his final moments of life. Phantom had already spoken to him, telling of how he would be missed especially since he never really had a chance to know that Evan was really like.
“Why don’t you go and at least talk to him?” Phantom urged, but Mercedes remained stubborn not moving from her stop nor uncrossing her arms.
“Evan was never one for me to get to know. He had the audacity to say that he, a mere child, was the one to inherit the contract of Afrein and Freud and to call himself the Dragon Master. The only Dragon Master that ever lived died on that day right next to me. On top of everything, he mated with his dragon servant and produced something that is neither dragon, human or even Nova for that matter.” Mercedes hissed, until Phantom turned her to him with an almost mournful look on his face.
“Mercedes, listen to yourself; you’re trying to make Evan into something that he isn’t. I know the relationship you had with Freud was special, but you’re letting that get in the way of what can be in hopes that what was will just materialize.” Phantom responded; yes he knew of Mercedes past, and frankly, before he had met Aria, he was jealous of the late youth since it seemed to him that Mercedes actually harbored romantic feelings for him. Now that she had met Evan, she had always seemed distant of him as though waiting for him to just become Freud, and also wondered where their own relationship was going if Mercedes still clung to her image of Freud. Mercedes closed her eyes, taking in Phantom’s words: he was right. She had been hoping ever since news that the Dragon Master was around that it was Freud and that he had somehow managed to live through those terrible wounds from the battle. But when instead she saw this union of dragon and human and that he fawned over her, it tore her heart in two to see that it was some other young man, and not the earnest, wise face of Freud.
“I just… I don’t want to relive what happened at the temple, watching the life fade from Freud’s eyes, it was heart wrenching. I can’t go through that again.” Mercedes answered as tears began to sting the corners of her eyes. Phantom was about to reply when Heidrin walked up to them.
“Excuse me, Mercedes, Phantom. I hate to interrupt this but I fear I have something that requires your intervention.” she said in a low voice, making Phantom sigh sadly and turn Mercedes away from the crowd that had gathered to hear what it was she had to say, leaving the sounds of Eva crying into Alice’s elegant dress for a long while when the sound of dragon’s wings flapped through the air. Cygnus turned and bowed when she saw Keminsolar and another dark blue dragon, nearly black, standing beside her.
“I felt the nearing of death for my Galsenmo o argaust. I have brought someone with me that wished to see you before you fell into golden slumber.” Keminsolar said as she shrank down to her human form, holding out her arm to the dragon as it approached.
“Ati-mal mican-pa, aya offon D’Or, carlo genuk galsenmo lumiesu gesto ker Mir.”
“You’re saying that Hilla has been providing troops to protect Arkarium all this time?! Why weren’t we told about her sooner?! We could have stopped her before she started sending troops to the Temple.” Phantom asked angrily as Heidrin told them of the situation.
“I just received word for the troops stationed at the temple of time this morning Phantom. Not only that, but we didn’t know where the soldiers were coming from to begin with. If we can stop them at their source then they will no longer be a threat to us anymore.”
“And where is that?” Mercedes asked coldly.
“The ancient lost city of Azwan in the Nihal Desert. King Abdulla has said that the city appears to be rising from its sandy grave as each day a new part of this city is visible.
“Then let’s go. I still have part of a score to settle.” Phantom growled, pressing a button on his sleeve making the familiar whine of the Lumiere’s turbines begin to come closer.
“Phantom, I thought that you had reconciled with your past between you and Aria and that Suu was the one who really killed her?” Mercedes questioned as Phantom stepped into the pod and held out his hand for Mercedes to board, angrily pulling down the lever and pulling them back up to the ship.
“I’ve accepted the fact that there was nothing I could have done differently to prevent her death. But the person that made her death possible is still alive, and she will answer for what she’s done, even if I must dig it out of her chest.”
“So, in a way, you are the Black Mage?” Lania asked taking a bite of the simple scones she had made as she and Luminous sat outside her house.
“Yes. I will try my hardest to keep this darkness within me under my control. I just hope you don’t think that I’ve been abandoning you.” Luminous said, his concerned eyes looking up at Lania from under his bangs, which had grown considerably since the last time he had seen her.
“I would never think that Luminous. I feel as if we both have a bond that goes far beyond the day we first met. I know that you will always be there for me.” Lania smiled, placing a hand on Luminous’ which he then turned over to allow it to rest within his own palm. As he stared at their hands for a moment, a feeling of dread washed over him: what if during his battles against those that remained of the Black Wings made him meet his end before Lania was told how he really felt about her? What if the chance that he tried to take in asking her to marry him never came again? What then? With a firm pat on her hands, Luminous held up a finger and disappeared into the house, once again digging through the trunk next to their bed searching for the velvet box he had hidden within it after nearly killing Lania when the power of the Black Mage reared its ugly head from within him. It wasn’t long until he found it, sighing deeply as he tossed it into the air and caught it with a swing of his hand going back down the stairs, stopping just as he hit the landing watching her as she folded her legs under her and looked to be studying a bright lily growing in the small flowerbed just outside the door. For a moment Luminous’ heart waivered: should he really ask something like this when so much uncertainty lay ahead for him? Would he really ever be able to control this darkness within himself to keep what happened to her from happening again, or even worse, to their children should time allow?
“Just kill her and get it over with!” A voice growled within his mind.
“No! I will never allow myself to hurt her again!”
“Just kill her now and be done with it! You’ll never have this woman hold you back ever again! ”
“I need her to hold me back! ”
“She’s the reason that you can’t fully control your power! Just kill her and all control will be yours! ”
“I SAID NO! ” Luminous mind roared, finally going silent against his darker self.
“That’s right, she is my anchor, my check to make sure that I keep my power under control. For her sake if nothing else, I will maintain my power. ” He thought, taking a deep breath and he walking out, calling for Lania to come to him. As she did, she felt as though he was nervous about something, but what she couldn’t tell; the only thing that she knew for sure was that there was something in his left hand that he almost tried to hide.
“Yes?” She asked innocently. For another moment, Luminous faltered as doubts began to rise again but were pushed aside as he cleared his mind and focused exclusively on Lania.
“I have watched to you grow from the little girl that found me into this beautiful young woman that you are today, and our relationship has grown into the bond that we share today.”
“Please Lania, let me finish. I tried to ask you this many times before, and came close to asking once. But then the power within me rose up and nearly killed you, and I tried to stay away from you thinking that I could control it on my own. But I can’t. You are the reason I am able to keep this… thing, inside me under control. You are my strength, my reason, and my will; I don’t know if this is the right thing do or not, but I ask you, Lania. Will you be my bride?” Luminous asked as he knelt to the ground, opening the small box in his hand and holding it up to her in deadly uncertain anticipation. Lania seemed happily surprised, taking the small box from his hands and looking more closing at the ring, watching as the sun was refracted through the gem at the top of it spreading a rainbow of color over her thumb.
“Luminous, you’ve never had to ask. My heart was destined to be yours from the beginning. I don’t know where this feeling comes from, but I knew that you were the one for me, even as a young child when I found you. But to answer your question, yes, yes, a thousand times yes!” Lania smiled as Luminous stood, leaning in close to meet her lips in a joyous, yet quiet kiss among the ferns and trees that surrounded them suddenly blowing to the sides slightly as the Lumiere cruised to a stop overhead with Phantom swinging down to the ground in his drop pod.
“Luminous come on, we have a mission to stop Hilla.”
“The Necro General of the Black Wings?!” Luminous asked in surprise.
“Yes her, now get in, there’s not much time to waste!” Phantom ordered. Luminous looked back to Lania for a moment who nodded and smiled after Luminous quickly put the ring on her, grabbed his staff and rode the pod back to the ship which was already turning and beginning its flight towards Ariant. Once aboard, Luminous found that The New Guardians were on board as well.
“I’ve heard very little about this General Hilla; is she as dangerous as she sounds?” Latimer asked.
“No… she’s worse.” Mercedes replied, silencing them all for the long trip until they were able to touch down in Ariant which was now a flourishing tourist town; nothing like the broken down near ghost town that The New Guardian’s parents had told them of. The greetings of the villagers had to be pushed aside as they were escorted into the King’s Palace where he brought them over to the balcony of the throne room allowing them to see the large spire that loomed over the sands and the obelisk that had begun to peek through the sands.
“It started about the time that Clytemnestra brought Victoria back to Ossyria. And every day since then it has steadily become taller to what you see before you.” Abdulla explained.
“Why weren’t we told about this sooner? Hilla is one of, if not the most dangerous of the remaining Generals of the Black Wings.” Mercedes asked, feeling redundant when Phantom asked the same question of Heidrin.
“There was no reason to worry until we began to see undead soldiers outside of the village. We reported this to Heidrin who then told us, based on our description of them, that they were the same exact soldiers reinforcing Arkarium’s position at the temple of time.” Luminous huffed hard and was about to make a move to the king when Dumia put up her hand and stopped him from moving, having left her Mecha on the Lumiere for the moment.
“Easy there tiger. We’re here now, and we can take care of it.” She said, holding him back for a moment until he relaxed and backed up, roughly pushing Dumia away from him. Once they were given a few water skins and a sled for them ride on, Dumia powered up her Mecha and pulled the sled through the sands, speeding over the endless sea of gold for the dark spire that told of ill tidings.
Hilla smirked as she looked down from the top of the spire, holding her hands to the water-like window of the room and spreading them apart, enlarging the image of the Heroes and of ‘The New Guardians’ speeding over the sand towards her empire, her empire. Casually she walked away through the halls, letting the enlarged portion of the window spring back to its normal tension before flicking her fingers at the skeleton soldiers slumped on the wall and standing them to attention.
“Be a dear and bring me something cool to drink.” She ordered in a silken voice. The skeletons clicked their teeth together as though trying to speak before walking off with spears in hand, clattering down the hall as she lay down on the black and gold velvet chaise lounge in her room with a dissatisfied sigh. Thinking back over her life up to this point, it wasn’t exactly what she had envisioned for herself: she had wanted the people of Azwan to adore her as they always had. Even the king himself fawned all over her as head Shamaness, showering her with lavish gifts and proclaiming his love for her time and time again. Of course she wasn’t interested in ‘love’ one bit at first, but she pretended which allowed her to get very close to the king, so close in fact that if it hadn’t been for her sister Shamaness Medina, she would have easily been awarded the throne as queen. And then she began to be around the king more often, finding that there were little nuances that she had never seen before, slowly finding that her act of loving the king was becoming real.
“Why did it all go so wrong?” she asked herself as the Skeletons walked back into the room, their unfeeling bodies holding out the platter to her with a large goblet of cool water. She took it, and thanked the skeletons which fell to the ground in a pile of dusty bones rather than standing around her, admiring her every move, word and look. No this was not the life she had envisioned for herself; it was better; much, much better.
“But am I simply deceiving myself?” she wondered, drinking down the water and setting the goblet aside, reclining back while she waited for the would be conquerors to come to her, that is, if they could get through her nearly endless army of the necro-soldiers of people from the streets and barracks of the Azwan people which now included her newest of pets, the Blood Hyena.
“I don’t mean to sound rude your majesty Keminsolar, but who is this? I must ask your forgiveness since I don’t speak your language.” Cygnus replied, bowing slightly to the dragon before them.
“This is D’Or. She is what you humans would call Mir’s great niece.” Keminsolar responded, turning to Mir as she took a ragged breath, feeling sorrow for her as she would a relative.
“But how is that even possible? Mir is the last of her kind.” Evan pointed out, propping himself on his elbows and putting an arm around Eva to comfort her as she stood by his bed.
“Mir is the last of the Onyx Dragons here in Ossyria, but the Onyx race has been living strong in Oldesta for nearly 700 years. I had the honor of knowing her genuk galsenmo before she passed into golden slumber.” Mir held her hand out, taking Eva’s into her own and gently squeezing it, but quickly let go when a stab of pain shot through her and Evan for a few moments as the mark on her back glowed through her grey dress.
“I never knew.” Mir responded, tired from what the pain had been putting her through in the last day.
“What could bringing D’Or here at this time do? There is nothing that can be done for Mir and I at this point; Alice said so herself.” Evan asked, wheezing as the pain slowly died away, preparing him for the next wave.
“I have been made aware that while we dragons live among you, the relationship you have with us is minimal, and from what I have been able to glean from the ancient texts of Ossyria, Afrien and Freud were the ones who mutually tried to bridge the gap between the races. You and Evan were the ones chosen centuries later to continue that mission, albeit slightly less productive than your ancestors.”
“I never knew this was what they had… HYA!” Evan cut his sentence short when another powerful wave of pain pounded away at both him and Mir, locking their bodies into a fetal position for a few seconds, panting for breath after the wave passed.
“What I’ve never understood is why it was the Onyx race of dragons that was chosen for the pact.” Evan said, uncurling his sore body once again as he looked to Keminsolar.
“The Onyx are a peculiar race among the dragons; normally, we dragons are born with the ability to manipulate and harness the power of a given element. However they use an energy stemming from their own life force called ‘Econe o atuk’ to manipulate the elements around them, similar to that of what you humans call mana. This is what made Afrein and Freud such a powerful force, for they were able to link their mana together and manipulate it in tandem, both their own, and each other’s.” Keminsolar explained as Mir pushed herself up into a seated position, using her tail to steady herself speaking in a weary voice as her energy was quickly fading.
“But why bring D’Or? What purpose would it serve?” she asked before falling back to her bed, exhausted from the motion of getting up. Eva ran to her side, grabbing her hand in fear that her mother would suddenly leave, especially since Alice wasn’t doing anything to help them: in her young mind, she could care less if Alice was even alive. D’Or moved closer, concern on her face while a large hot tear ran a trail down the side of her jaw.
“Galsenmo o argaust…” But she was stopped when Mir held up her hand, stopping her from saying anything.
“The reason I brought D’Or here was to transfer the contract from you to her and your daughter Eva. She will be the new Dragon Master that will, with the help of D’Or, bring a greater understanding between our races.” Keminsolar said softly, kneeling down between the cots and setting hand on Eva’s, trying to comfort her in this time of distress.
“Not only will it be that, it will also serve as a memorial to you by carrying on your legacy through your daughter.” Eva looked up to Keminsolar, her eyes wet with tears when Mir and Evan both tensed in another bout of pain.
“Mayak Shenuk! Colares archen ati klo-tani!”
“Offon azte D’Or, mo lumicore o deshe ati-ahgo.” Keminsolar said in a soft voice, but firm, making D’Or nod her head and step back slightly.
“But, how will I know what to do without them here to guide me?” Eva protested, gripping Mir’s hand tighter.
“D’Or will be there to guide you. She is not just a pact member Eva; she is much more than that.” With great reluctance, Eva agreed, letting go of Mir’s hand as Keminsolar escorted her to Cygnus and Alice.
“Do either of you know where the original contract Minerva made is?” She asked, placing her gentle hands on Eva’s shoulders; she could feel this girl’s heart about to break and if this contract was to be completed, it needed to be done before Evan and Mir passed on into the Golden Slumber.
“Minerva never wrote the original spell down unfortunately. However I believe that Cygnus here knows it.” Alice replied, holding a hand to her. Cygnus’ eyes went wide; how could she know something that she had never read and her only knowledge of the contract was through the history written in the old texts.
“I see, we must work quickly then.” Keminsolar said with a sad smile, escorting Eva into place before D’Or.
“Alice! I don’t know the spell that…”
“Trust your heart Cygnus. Just take your time and the words will come to you.” Alice reassured. Cygnus felt perturbed, but took a hard breath as she walked to where D’Or and Eva stood facing one another. Unsure of what needed to be done, Cygnus held her hands up and closed her eyes, slowing her breathing which in turn slowed her heart while thoughts began flowing through her mind that she never knew she had, filtering through until the words began to form in her mind. As if she had performed this very spell hundreds of times, she spoke in a soft tone, both Eva and D’Or glowing with a faint light as they began to hover. The mark of the contract formed so long ago began appearing in mid air, sending down beams of light from where it hovered to both D’Or’s forehead and to Eva’s hand. Evan and Mir both did the best they could so sit up and watch since they themselves never had a formal ceremony as this. But as it drug on, Mir’s strength began to waiver when another strong pulse of pain shot through her, curling her body into the fetal position as did Evan, both reaching for each other’s hand, gripping tightly as though they were frightened of what lay ahead for them both.