It was all encompassing. Swirling and ever shifting greyness, changing from light to dark to light shades again and again as if that shifting were the beating of a heart. It was a comforting greyness, and I could feel it coiling and wrapping itself around me, filling me and my emptiness with itself.
There was power in the greyness, power that I could instinctively understand and recognize. It was a subtle power, not naturally meant for directness or confrontation. Instead the power of the greyness seemed to naturally thrive in other areas, areas that made more direct methods seemingly obsolete.
I could feel the greyness begin to fill me, to fill an emptiness inside myself that I only half recognized and seemed far vaster than I should’ve ever been able to contain. As the greyness filled me I began to lose sight of it, and in its place came something new.
As the greyness filled me it showed me something that I didn’t understand…
Fire. Fire was everywhere. Everything was burning, the houses outside, the two great walls, what little was left standing of the castle, all of the capital was on fire and soon it would burn down to nothing but ash. Everything would be burned and nothing was safe from the flames, not even stone or flesh.
He had never thought she was capable of this, no that wasn’t true, he did know. He knew very well what she was capable of, he’d seen it many times after all, he had just never thought that her flames would ever be turned against him. Maybe that was foolish of him, in fact now that he saw the ocean of fire all around him he knew that it was the height of foolishness to think that.
He was kneeling down on the tiles of what was once his grand throne room, now all that stood of the castle were the throne itself and the once secret arched passage behind it. The palace walls had been enchanted by him personally, but that didn’t matter against these flames. The blue fire had always burned away any enchantment or curse he could make after all, layering on the enchantments just made that burn take longer.
He blinked away the blood in his eyes, gripped his shattered left arm tighter with his only working limb, and glared at the woman in front of him. The woman he once called friend and trusted with his life, the woman who now held her sword to his precious daughter’s throat and had burned his kingdom down around him. He glared at her with equal amounts of rage and fear but he didn’t dare to move, she had his precious daughter at sword point which meant she had all the meaning and importance that was left of his world in the palm of her hands and she was posed to crush it.
“Please, Alexia let her go, she’s just an empty child. Nothing has been done yet…” His voice was strained from pain and stress. After losing his battle against her and with all the damage he took that he was now struggling to suppress he wasn’t in a position to speak in any other way.
The woman’s eyes went hard, the flames that seemed to dance in her blue eyes seemed to burn cold as she looked at the man kneeling before her. “You know I can’t do that Iras, this thing you call a daughter must die...” The woman shook her head, but as she looked again at the man kneeling before her the hardness in her softened and tears spilled from her eyes. “What were you even thinking, making something like this!? You KNEW what that would mean, you KNEW what I’d have to do!”
The man looked on defiant, he saw nothing wrong with his actions. “I thought you were my friend Alexia, I never thought you would do something like this… Please, just stop now. If it’s now we can still be friends again, we can just forget about all this and fight alongside each other instead of against one another. It’ll be like the old days, you still remember them right?” The man smiled as he began to inch closer to the woman holding his daughter, he saw the way she froze when he brought up their past. If he could just use that he could come back from this, the loss of his kingdom would be a setback of course but with Alexia by his side again that really wouldn’t mean anything. They could find another kingdom, it wouldn’t even take that long for him to set things up again. “Come on Lexy, you and me against the world remember? We’ve always been there for each other, nothing could ever change that… Right?”
The woman looked hesitant for a moment, but then her face became hard again. The flames grew cold once more even as her tears left tracks down her cheeks. “Of course I remember the old days, I also remember what I promised you Iras.” The woman stood resolute as blue flames burst to life around her and burned the shadows that had been creeping closer to her from behind. “You made me promise, made me swear on our friendship that I wouldn’t let you become a monster like your brother.” The blue flames danced higher as the buildings and walls in the distance around them collapsed and burned to ash under the sudden increased power of the blue fire. “Iras, I’m sorry I couldn’t act sooner. I didn’t keep my promise, instead I was a slave to my feelings and ignored what you were becoming. I waited and turned a blind eye to the evils you committed when I should have been there to stop you…”
The man’s eyes flashed with a cruel light at the mention of his brother but quickly softened. He made that smile that in the past had always changed her mind and made her forgive him of anything he had done to anger her, all the while he searched for a way to let even a single shadow reach her. All he would need was one, just a glancing touch or even a slight graze from any of the shadows under his control would end this. “You could fulfil that promise by my side, Lexy. We would help each other just like we used to, I’m not a monster Lexy and I still need you to keep me from becoming one.”
The woman looked at him in shock, she couldn’t believe what she had just heard him say. “Iras, you’ve done so much evil, how can you not see that you are what you used to despise most!?”
“I am no monster, Lexy. All I do is for the sake of a better world…”
“You created a curse that ended countless lives and caused an entire race to almost die out.”
“Tragic yes, but necessary…”
“You created and used rites and rituals that involved mass sacrifices and destroyed or damned souls.”
“It was the only way, I needed to make a suitable vessel…”
“You enslaved an entire kingdom!”
“They were filthy humans, the same race that kill our friends with all their pointless wars! Enslaving them was an act of mercy and restraint on my part.”
“Iras, you killed some of our friends too…”
“Only those that betrayed me.”
“You mean the ones who tried to stop you.”
“Isn’t that the same thing?”
The woman stared at the man that she had loved all her life as the truth others had tried so hard to convince her of finally sunk in. “You truly have gone mad…”
The man smiled as he looked into his daughter’s flat lifeless eyes, his daughter was truly his greatest creation even with how obviously flawed the vessel was. “Lexy, all people are mad. Hell, this entire world is mad! That’s why I need her, I need my precious daughter to destroy this mad world and create a new one in its place! Then everything will be perfect, don’t you see?”
The woman nodded. “Yes, I do…” The azure blade she held in one hand slit the throat of the soulless vessel in the form of a girl she held close in the other, and just as the white ichor that served as the girls blood began to spill the girl’s body was consumed in blue flames.
“NOOOOO!!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!? STOP!!!” The man screamed as countless shadows lunged at the woman only to be burned away by walls of blue flame. “YOU’RE RUINING EVERYTHING!!! WITHOUT A BODY SHE WON’T BE ABLE TO MANIFEST!!!”
The woman stared coldly at the man screaming at her from the floor, he had fallen from his kneeling position when he had tried to lung at her with his shattered legs. “I know, the elders were very clear about what I must do to prevent the rise of the nameless god.” She walked forward through the flames, looking down at the man she still loved with more regret and pain than she thought could still be left inside her.
The man looked up, clear and bottomless hatred in his eyes. “This won’t stop me… You won’t stop me, I’ll just have to start over again from the beginning…”
The woman knelt down and held the man up in her arms, hugging him close against her and trying to memories his warmth with her body. “I know…” The man gasped and his eyes widened in shock as the azure blade was thrust through his heart. “And I’m too weak of a person to actually kill you like I swore to you I would back then, and to the elders when they sent me here. This is all I can bring myself to do…” Blue flames engulfed the man but instead of burning they began to solidify. The woman removed her sword from the man and before the man was completely frozen within solid blue flame she lovingly kissed his forehead. “Please, sleep eternally and never awaken, Iras…”
The woman looked at the inscription that had formed on the seal and felt her heart break once more. “The forgotten king, a ruler of ash and dust… I suppose that is what he has become, for the sake of the world Iras and his rule should fade into memory and become forgotten.” She turned and glared at the spot where the body of a girl once stood, there was nothing there now not even ashes. “But I’ll always remember, wont I? After all I could never forget my first and closest friend…”
As what I was being shown faded away, a flash of brilliant shining gold cut through the swirling and shifting greyness. This shining gold began to fill me as well, moving some of the greyness out of me as it did.
The gold burned brightly, it was just as powerful as the greyness but in a very different way. The gold was destructive but at the same time it could restore as easily as it could destroy, it was a direct and forceful sort of power but it could also be soft and more subtle at times.
The greyness fought the gold, coils of grey extended out like fingers and grasped at me while flailing at the gold. The ropes of grey were meet by shining beams of gold that held them back and continued to fill me. It hurt as the two forces meet inside me and fought against each other just as they did outside of me, the pain was so excruciating that I wished and begged for it to end by any means even if it meant my own end. Unfortunately there was no end to the pain and whatever I was, I didn’t seem to be ending either. I continued on and so did the pain, all I could do was watch as the two forces fought inside and outside of myself.
At first the greyness had the advantage, the coils of grey could push against and intertwine with the golden beams, but that was changing. It was slow, but the gold seemed to constantly increase somehow even despite the attempts of the grey. It was like more gold was constantly flooding in from some outside place, and overtime the sheer amount of the gold began to overwhelm the greyness.
As the gold filled me more and more I could feel it trying to show me something just as the grey had before. For some reason it seemed harder to see what it was trying to show me this time, I had to actually want to see it now instead of just having it happen.
I did just that, anything was better than dealing with this constant pain and even the momentary escape of being shown something by the gold was a blessing of immense proportions to me.
I let the gold show me what it willed…
“Really Uria, how do you even do that?” The boy just stared in clear awe at the twisting light the girl was holding up in her hands. The light would change its shapes and color constantly, never being the same configuration twice.
“I don’t really get what’s so special, this is so easy to do…” The girl spoke with a lonely but hopeful voice. She didn’t want the boy to start avoiding her like all her other friends had.
“It’s supper special! Uria you can already use magic and you don’t even have your wings yet, my dad said that you can even use it better than most of the teachers can!”
The girl looked down, she had been told things like that so often in the past year the words had lost their meaning to her. Now the word ‘special’ was the same as the word ‘different’ to her ears, and because of this she hated to be told she was special.
“I’m sure you can do this too if you just practice some…” The girl hid how the boy’s words made her feel and smiled at him. “In fact I bet you’re even better than me at magic and just don’t know it yet!”
The boy blushed and turned away with a complicated smile. “No I don’t think I will be… You’re just too-…” The words the boy planned to say fell away as his eyes fell upon a sphinx that was circling the hollow in the ground below a tree nearby. He saw that it was circling like that because of the sphinx cub that was lying on the ground and not moving.
The girl was concerned as the boy stopped speaking with a gasp then got up and began running towards an untamed sphinx, she hesitated a moment but quickly got up and began following after her friend. When she caught up to the boy he was trying to get closer to the two creatures without having the growling mother sphinx attacking him. The girl looked down and felt her heart clench when she saw the small sphinx cub struggling to breathe.
“Uria its hurt or sick or something! You have to help it with your magic!” The boy looked at the girl with a panicked expression.
“Nocial, we shouldn’t… You know what the teachers would say if I helped it, and I can’t care for a sphinx yet.” The girl felt sick as the words left her mouth, but it didn’t make them any less true. Her father had told her how much time, care, and magic it took to care for a sphinx and right now she couldn’t devote enough of any of those things, at least not while she was still supposed to attend school.
“So you’re just going to leave it to die like this, even though you could help?” The boy looked at her as if she were a stranger and not the girl he had grown up alongside and played with.
“I-I…” The girl struggled as she tried to explain herself to her last friend. The girl’s panicked eyes fell onto the sphinx cub and widened as she saw it struggle one last time for breathe before simply going still. The girl found herself moving before she realized it, her hands hovered above the still cub and the radiance of strong healing light shone down on the quiet body. “I won’t let you die little one…” It was a whisper full of feelings the girl didn’t quite recognize or understand, but felt with all her heart.
The boy had already ran to get their teacher for the day, it was the only thing he could think of doing to help. The mother sphinx simply sat and mourned the passing of her child with wails to the sky, as a creature of significant magic and intelligence it already knew there was nothing left for her child but to slip quietly into death’s embrace. All the while the girl poured her mana into the small body laying still in front of her, she could feel that general healing wasn’t working and she was trying to examine what was wrong by carefully guiding her power through the small body like the teachers once explained great healers sometimes did. She couldn’t sense anything, the body seemed cold and dead even when flooded with healing light.
“Uria, child, I’m sorry but it has already gone to rejoin the creator. There is nothing even the healing power of light magic can do for it now…” The girl could hear the words of her teacher behind her, but she did not turn to acknowledge him with a bow as she normally would. The girl shut her eyes and tried harder, pulled on more of her mana from her impressive mana pool, and searched even deeper into the body of the sphinx cub with her power.
The girl had been called a prodigy, the greatest mage of light to be born among the angelia in generations. The elders spoke of how her birth was a precious gift from the creator and heralded in a new age, how with her talent and power she would be a great hero for her people. She had hated how such things were said about her and how all her friends started to treat her differently after she came into her magic so early, but now she prayed those things others said about her were true.
It took time, but finally her mana encountered something in the cold body of the sphinx cub. It was like a small glimmer of a spark of something, the girl did not know what it truly was but through her power she could feel how vitally important this strange thing was for the cub. The girl focused on it and using all the restorative and healing powers of light she could command she stoked the strange spark thing into expanding, she kept the spark growing until she simply couldn’t focus anymore.
The girl collapsed like a toppled seat to the grassy ground from where she had been kneeling in front of the dead sphinx. All those who had gathered around her including the boy, all of her school’s teachers, her father, and her many classmates looked on in awe as the small sphinx shivered and mewled in discomfort as its savor slept deeply next to it. The sphinx’s mother stood over the two glaring and growling at all those gathered near its revived child and the girl who had brought that child back from death.
“My daughter… Did she?” A man with two magnificent pairs of white wings growing out of his back spoke in a hushed and breathless whisper.
The oldest of those gathered, an aged man with three pairs of wings suddenly clapped his hands and spoke in a decisive tone. “Someone send for the elders, tell them that Uria has resurrected the dead…”
As the scene faded away I noticed that something strange was occurring, the grey and gold weren’t fighting each other as hard as before. The two forces were beginning to settle, even intermix in some areas inside and outside of myself. I could feel the two distinct and unique natures of the forces and it seemed as if it shouldn’t be possible for the two to mix as they did, but amazingly they had and were. There were areas of pure shining gold, areas of shifting shadow, and areas at the borders where the two bleed into each other and mixed, the areas weren’t all equal though. There was noticeably more gold than anything else both inside and outside of myself, though inside of myself I could feel that I was filled about a fifth of the way full with the greyness and with the rest being filled with the pure gold. The two forces were not mixing with one another at all inside me, but they didn’t fight one another either.
It was pleasant that there was no pain anymore, and I strangely felt content and at peace. It was as if an essential part of myself, a part that had been missing up until now, had been put into place at long last. It was truly a blissful feeling, completely unlike anything else I had ever experienced.
And that was the moment I remembered what had happened to me, I began to remember who I was as the beams of gold began to burn pleasantly inside of me. I was born as the youngest of three brothers, I had been named… David? No that’s the wrong one, that name isn’t mine. David, that’s not me… Ok I didn’t know my name anymore, it must’ve been one of those things I lost as that monster tried eating my mana. I did remember that I was always the weird on of the family though, my white hair and grey eyes had never fit in with the shades of browns everyone else in my family had, as my brothers had loved to remind me. We were a simple family, we lived in an apartment... No, that’s David again, not me… I’ve got to try harder to separate and organize things…
We had lived in a cottage at the edge of a forest outside of the village, dad and Kalt used to go into the forest to hunt too. I always used to get into fights with my brothers that mom always had to break up, and my favorite time of year was fall because of the new year’s festival that the village held before the last harvest of that year. Life was sort of hard at times and I always had to wear hand-me-down clothes from my brothers, but my family didn’t starve and our home was warm in the winter so I didn’t really have many complaints. Although it would’ve been nice if I could’ve made it to medical school… Wait, no that’s David again… Shit, how much of David did I take in anyway? It must be a lot given all these memories I have to sort through… I actually wanted to grow up and be a… Hunter? Like dad I guess… Yeah that seems sort of right, but I don’t want to be a hunter now… Why? Is that because of David’s memories and knowledge changing me?
I could tell what was me and what was actually just hold over memories from the man called David Shrike after thinking about the memory for a while, but it was hard to separate the memories collectively from each other. When that monster attacked it had broken something inside me when devouring my mana pool and my body tried to fix it on its own, that was the when I somehow got bits of David mixed in with me. Now since I was alive my mana pool was obviously fine, and I just wanted to go back to being myself without those bits of David clouding who I was. I was sorting things out and instinctively using the gold to bring up the memories as well as destroy the ones I didn’t want forever. There was a problem though, there was I lot that David had that I sort of wanted for myself. Like how I could remember being a pretty uneducated kid which wasn’t a surprise really considering there weren’t any schools in the village, David on the other hand had taken all sorts of classes in his eighteen years at school and university and even though he wasn’t the best student but he was pretty smart and picked up a lot in those classes. I wanted that knowledge for myself, I also liked knowing things about money and other stuff that I would’ve never learned as a kid living next to a small village.
The gold was powerful and what it destroyed was gone forever, I had to be careful to destroy all memories involved with David’s identity while not getting rid of his knowledge and I also had to find all of my old memories to restore them with that same power. It was a juggling act and one that I really couldn’t afford to mess up as I got the distinct feeling this would be the only chance I’d get, I felt that this place of golden and grey power I was in now was one I’d never return to after I leave it. I also felt that whoever I was when I left this place would be who I was forever afterwards, the only reason I was getting this chance now was simply because the memories of David that had been guiding me recently hadn’t understood a lot of what the gold or grey was showing me so the gold brought back the suppressed parts of the original me that would. The part that was a child who remembered being born in a small cottage next to the forest in the world of Gaia, the part that understood that magic was a very real force in this world unlike on the world of earth.
I kept purging pieces of David, and honestly also some pieces of original self from before that I just didn’t like. I also carefully got rid of the exact memories of what happened to my family, all I needed or wanted to know was that they were dead now along with the rest of the village and that there was nothing left to bury. The rest of that entire day was just fuel for future nightmares.
It was when I felt myself beginning to leave this place of gold and grey when I panicked, I knew what was waiting for me. I knew exactly who had picked up the half dead boy at the edge of the destroyed village now, they were the sort of people that my mother had always cautioned me to avoid if I’d ever met them: slavers. Which means that when I leave this place, I’m going to be back in that cell with a collar around my neck… shit…