I. The Gathering
Shorecrest, the city of the warriors of light, was a shining star atop a mountain. The fragrant smell of flowers in bloom wafted through the air and the playful chirping of birds fluttered on breezes that blew in off the nearby waters. The serene surrounds belied the events that happened not too far off in the distance as two guardians clashed and darkness encroached on the land. The mighty steed of Justice stood on a bridge leading into the city’s center. His legs trembled weakly as blood continued to spill from the wounds inflicted by the dark lord Foul and the staff of Death. He breathed shallowly his strength continuing to ebb as he struggled to walk. In the distance there could be heard the voices of people engaged in discussion.
Gathered at the center of town, Silyar Talehem, Talia Chandra, and other warriors stood together, discussing the recent calamities that had stricken the realm. “I do not know what is to come of this world,” Talia said, a pained look coming to her face. Her faerie wings and blond hair moved in the air, glittery bits of dust circling her like fireflies in an evening sky. She had become sick as the land had become sick, her power slowly being drained as the land’s power had also been drained, siphoned slowly away by the onslaught of the darkness.
Silyar nodded solemn acknowledgment; it pained him to see his fair friend stricken. A kind caretaker of the creatures of the world he had seen the toll that the Forever Night was taking on all things big and small. A faerie though, there was no magic cure or bandage that he could utilize to ease her suffering. His cloak was green as a mossy grass, dark clothing of black contradicting his bright spirit. It was he that was first to sense the presence of the great beast Emerald. He felt the animal’s pain and could hear the distant clippity clop of hooves on the wooden bridge. “Do you hear that?” he asked questioning his senses as he moved away from the faerie and off toward the bridge.
“Silyar?” Talia asked aloud.
He did not answer he continued off toward the sound of hooves, his walking becoming a jog and then a run. In the distance he could see the great green thing that all in the realm knew by name. Usually pleased by such an omen as the presence of Emerald he was now shocked and horrified by what he saw. There the horse stood his body covered in penetrating wounds, blood already pooling beneath the beast, the wood soaking up the essence and turning a dark auburn. He was stunned and stood for a moment sizing up the horse; even wounded as he was the horse if not desirous of his approach could strike him down with little effort. “Emerald?” he asked his voice like a song. “There, there, kindly one, what has come of you?” The horse shifted his stance and lowered his head in seeming submission. Silyar feeling more confident approached, dropping his pack to the ground. He bent on knee and fumbled through the various items gathering bandages and salves in a pile. He wiped at his forehead with the back of his gloved hand beads of sweat forming in an instant, his mind a flurry of thought as he kept looking up from his work still unbelieving. This was not good, whatever had done this to the beast must have been beyond powerful and worse the absence of Justice was an ominous portent.
Talia Chandra approached concerned by her friend’s sudden departure. Seeing the horse she rushed forward. “No,” she said quietly in disbelief, “this simply cannot be.”
Silyar walked around the animal addressing the most serious of wounds first. He bundled bunches of cloth in his hands and pressed them firmly against the animals punctured hide. Emerald neighed in pain and looked back on the man that had taken to aiding him. “I would not believe this either if I did not see it,” Silyar said regarding Talia with a frown as he continued to clean and press bandage bundles into the wounds.
“Where is Justice?” the faerie asked as she sprinkled magic dusts in front of the horse his large nostrils breathing them in, his body relaxing with their merciful charms. Emerald shook his head in obvious concern trying to motion a direction but communication with the beast was an impossibility. Talia was struck by the feeling of sadness that permeated the air around the horse it was as if he already mourned his master’s passing. Surely that could not be, surely she was misinterpreting her finer senses. After all this was the mount of a guardian, she should know better than to attempt to decipher its complex nature. The attempt at denying her initial thoughts was noble but her instincts were keener than her false reasoning and she knew it. She wanted to jump on the horse’s back and command him to ride to where Justice had last been but the animal was in no condition to go anywhere.
Other members of the town had gathered around the bridge their silence indicating their disbelief. Talia looked from one to the next wiping tears from her eyes. Cassia stood forward and touched her shoulder softly, “Talia, please you must rest, Silyar and I shall tend to Emerald.” Talia fluttered backward slowly, finally bumping into Dagor, his form now that of a great green Wyvern. His fearsome appearance just that, for his heart was kind and pure. Sitting he wrapped the faerie in his large wings and laid his head lightly on the top of her head in embrace, the two of them watching as Silyar and Cassia cared for Emerald. Rubbing her hands together quickly, Cassia’s hands began to glow the white energy of her healing power rushing forth. She placed her hands on those areas that Silyar had not yet mended stopping the animal’s bleeding. The horse shifted uneasily,. “Ah, come now, one so mighty as you Emerald should not be concerned by my healing magics,” she said softly into his ear reassuring him. They had much work ahead of them and they set to the task with vigor.
Far away from the worried townspeople of Shorecrest not simply distance but time separating them, a woman stood in the bleakness of the future. Upon a winding spiral of seemingly endless stone, rising up into the dark she climbed. This staircase of black stone was what had greeted her some four days ago and what still she traversed at this moment. Here was a place where none would ever conceive of going.
The woman clad in soiled robes of white continued to slowly climb the stairs of the old clock tower, strength in her legs coming and going in waves as her mind compelled her at one moment to stop and in another to go. This was madness, the old man would never give her what she wanted or perhaps seeing her as she was now he would. Like her strength the thoughts would come and go passing more quickly now then they had before as she had come to decide that she’d dallied on them long enough. Whatever the answer, whatever his decision, to try was a must. What was there left for her to do but resolve to try?
She placed a withered hand upon the dark stone of the tower’s wall and braced herself. With her other hand she pushed aside grayed hair from her eyes and looked upward. There she saw a dim light shining down from the room at the top of the tower. She was made queasy by a sudden bout of vertigo and quickly averted her eyes for fear that she might fall backward. Ah yes backward, the long way from where she had come. She looked downward; the tower’s base long since gone from view just darkness met her gaze, endless darkness. She sighed deeply her blue eyes looking up again determined; they were the one feature that still contained a youthful gleam, some semblance of her former self. She started climbing again, her hand balancing her with each step. Behind her she trailed a long cloak of vines. They were brown and withered like she, old near death. Bits of the cloak would crumble and be blown upward in a funnel of wind that danced playfully within the cylindrical tower’s walls sending leaves swirling round in circles. Upon her head sat a dried crown of thorns garnished with blackened rose petals. The thorns had combed through her thinning hair and dug into her scalp. Small cuts they caused oozed, the dried blood lying in smatterings of red clumping small bunches of the gray hair to her forehead. Her white robe was torn at the knees testament to many falls on this arduous journey, the tears in the robe showing through to bloody and bruised twig thin legs.
As she continued to climb, to will herself to the room at the top of the tower a sound of ticking became louder and louder. It flowed over her, pecking at her ears making her innards shake. Like a flock of buzzards at the top of the stairs diving downward, it enveloped her in a sea of subtle torment. The light grew brighter, warmth from the room settling over her, empowering her still more. As she came to the final landing she looked up again to high ceilings of aged oak that formed the towers roof. Now crawling more then walking she pulled herself up that final flight until finally her head poked from the stairwell. The room was vast, larger then could have been physically possible for such a building. Clocks of every variety lined the tall walls, pendulums swinging in a uniform rhythm, left and then right for some forward and then back for others. Grandfather clocks, wall clocks, ancient dials and simple perpetual motion timepieces of a long gone time clicked and ticked. She pulled herself up onto the floor of the great room and lay on her side breathing deeply, her eyes taking in with amazement and awe the menagerie of time.
Far down what seemed an endless row of stoically standing upright grandfather clocks she made out a small figure of a man. Long white hair ran in a cascade from the crown of his head, down his back to the floor. His beard in kind ran to his knees. He wore a brightly colored royal blue robe of fine silk and satin a cane in one hand, a pocket watch in the other. He looked down on the pocket watch and then again onto one of the grandfather clocks. He shook his head and brought the cane up to the minute hand on the clock in front of which he stood, adjusting it with a slight and gentle touch. He was oblivious to the woman lying at the stairwell concerned with the task at hand, with maintaining perfect symmetry between the pocket watch and all of the timepieces in the tower’s top chamber. High above them on a wall stood the most massive of timepieces anyone could ever have imagined, hands of pure energy spiking outward to metallic numbers poured into a blackened granite face. The Universal Clock, the timepiece of all creation the thing that counted off the unseen entity that was a moment, a second, a day, a lifetime. It hummed whilst the others went round in their whirring and ticking.
“Time,” the woman called out weakly to no avail. “Time,” she squeaked again trying to muster her voice.
He continued his doting. Feebly moving from one timepiece to the next. The woman struggled to her feet, angry and impatient. She gathered up what strength she could and raised a hand upward to the heavens. With a surge, there rushed forth a great power and clouds formed at the windows at the tower’s peak. A violent and powerful roar of thunder rumbled throughout the chamber and drowned the ticking of the clocks, reverberating off the walls. Startled the old man’s hand released its hold on the pocket watch and it fell to the blackened stone floor its glass face shattering. As he bent to retrieve it he saw her. His hand scooped up the broken timepiece but his eyes did not leave hers. He gracefully placed it in his pocket and stood straight just staring.
“What is the meaning,” he started to speak his tone menacing.
The woman cut him off before he could finish, “Time, Father Time, it is my want to speak with thee!”
He launched himself forward more floating then walking, approaching quickly. “How dare you!” he howled. His eyes raged and his long hair and beard moved as if alive. Deep lines were etched into his face, this once kindly looking old man instantly transformed. “How dare you invade my sanctuary!”
“Time,” she said again exhausted her head reeling. She swayed side to side, her legs finally too weak to hold her, eyes rolling back in her head. Before she had hit the floor he was on her grabbing her gently by her frail arms, lifting her up in a way that was nimble, much too nimble for one that appeared so elderly.
He held her in his arms and moved across the chamber to a small alcove walled-in behind a row of clocks. In this alcove there was a small bed and a writing table. He placed her on the bed, his nose detecting a familiar and well-known scent. “Jasmine?” he asked aloud to himself. “It cannot be,” he continued unwilling to believe. He pulled a stool from beside the table and sat alongside the woman on the bed. She was familiar but surely this was not who his senses told him this was. He sat for a moment looking on her and then reached for a decanter and mug. He poured water into the mug and splashed a bit on his fingertips. He moved his damp hand over her forehead brushing aside her matted locks his head shaking side to side in disbelief. None would dare to call him Time, none but her.
He lit a candle and rose to his feet looking on his clocks, trying to take his mind from the woman. Each clock struck another minute, another second another hour. Ticking off a uniquely different world’s time. He fumbled to make adjustments, wanted so much to, but there were no adjustments to be made and even if there were he didn’t care. If the woman was who he thought she was something most awful had befallen the whole of the universe. He sat again beside her and took one of her delicate hands into his own. Her skin was like a fine paper; it bruised and cracked at his gentle touch. Beads of sweat formed at his temples and on his forehead as he concentrated. “My power to your power,” he said softly over and over as he held her hand. “My soul to your soul.” The woman shifted in the bed and moved, energy flowing forth from the old man into her hand and up her arm. Her chest heaved, her breathing becoming deeper and stronger. Her eyes shot open, full of white light. With his free hand the old man brought the mug of water to her lips. “Drink up dear heart,” he chided his tone at once fatherly. She sipped the water her eyes returning to the deep blue of oceans and swallowed hard. Turning she looked at him and smiled and in an instant he knew it to be true. This was Nature, fair creator of all things living.
“My dear friend what has come of you?” he asked concerned.
Tears sprung from her eyes, sadness permeating the entirety of the tower. “The guardians, they have commenced a most serious power struggle. The Daemon Lord has enveloped the lands of Teiravon in the Forever Night. He has laid waste to the great realm,” she sobbed.
He released her hand a look of horror coming to his lips. “Foul, the insidious son of the hells,” he said knowingly.
Nature nodded affirmation. “He fights all that oppose him. He has engaged Justice in a battle that the Bringer of the Balance cannot win.”
Father time stood from his chair. “Justice, that one is under the protection of Death, surely the Soul Collector will not allow this.”
The woman shook her head side to side. “No, Death is rendered as powerless as I. The beast has devoured the souls of the holy land, snuffed it of the life that empowered both myself and the Soul Collector.”
Father Time looked on her unbelieving. “Child you speak of impossibilities! A guardians cannot be slain, the world of Teiravon cannot be devoured in darkness and the Forever Night has no power over the land there, it is the source of all creation.”
The frail creature that was the embodiment of Nature reached a hand to his robe and pulled him close. “You are mistaken as I was mistaken,” she whispered into his ear. “The red skinned daemon has stolen the sickle of the one we call Death, he has empowered it with the strength of my four sons. He will kill Justice with the very thing that granted him his immortality. Already the two of them have been engaged in battle for what seem as moments to us but for mortals are years. The Forever Night has devoured Teiravon, stricken the land with plague. Look at me! Look at what has happened to me! The one thing he cannot devour is time.” Her eyes became wide her lips cracked and dry became moist with her spitting contempt. “You sit here oblivious counting away every second, every minute, in this incessant ticking and clanging!” she scolded.
Time grabbed at her hand and pushed it away. “Even if your words are true, it is not within my power to aid you,” he said angrily. “The guardianss and their wicked games, such flawed things as them empowered with cosmic energies. Why should I give a damn if the whole of them die as mortals die! Your own sons the Elementals are engaged in this battle by your own admission. Nothing is beyond the corruption of these guardianss, immune from their lecherous grasp. Now they would dare to curse the triumvirate, destroy Nature and Death. Damn them all to their grotesque ends, damn them all to their bitter demises!”
Nature sat up in the bed and drew her knees to her chest. “Today the guardians Justice, tomorrow myself and Death and when it is all done what then? Will you tick away the hours for evil? Will you allow this tower to be devoured along with all things? When Death and I are finally destroyed what will you do? When Foul comes to visit you in this blasted sanctuary and decides that time itself should cease, what then old man? Already Teiravon is being reformed in the evil image of her new master. The lands are made barren. He introduces life, evil creations of his minions soulless abominations, whilst the guardians struggle to maintain what small foothold they have.” She threw her legs over the side of the bed and stood looking Time in the face. “My sons are erecting a new world, forging the land and the seas. They are all black. Yes the elements have been corrupted but only by their lack of understanding. Foul has convinced them that with the removal of the high evolutionaries he will make the world whole and pure again. They are naïve, swayed by his power and persuasion, his scornful prosecution of our grandest creations.”
Time put a hand to his chin and shook his head. “Our grandest creations? Those things that steal the nutrients from your soil, the oxygen from your air, the fish from your seas and the warmth and light of fire?” He sat down again upon the small wooden chair and stared at her, “They are not our creations, not the one’s we toiled over so long ago. They have become soulless, we imparted uniqueness a bit of the cosmos into each one and yet they have no respect for this gift.” He slammed his open hand onto the tabletop, “Oh yes they surely manipulate the gift we gave them, using it, using us, to obtain their twisted desires. Why did I give up on watching them dear Nature?” he asked without waiting for reply, “Because when I looked on them I felt nothing but pain.” The old man sighed, and rubbed at his eyes, his words booming in their truth, “The gods are another matter. They are forged from faith. When our creations needed an explanation for something, to be granted a favor to be reassured, they manufactured these gods. The faith they placed in the existence of these gods empowered them, breathed life into them. They gave of a part of their power so that the gods might be. While it is they that serve the gods it is the god that was meant to serve them,” he paused a look of disdain forming on his lips, “It was an error of the greatest magnitude on our part to allow this to give them such dominion, it has now grown to a such a disgraceful degree that we are left powerless to stop them. May haps we allow the demon to fulfill his insane destiny? Perhaps that is the outcome the universe demands; let him do what we should have done long ago, remedy our error of inaction.”
Nature sat glaring looking amazed by the old man’s indifference. “Do you hold all of creation in such low regard that you would allow the alpha world to be decimated. We swore to protect that place, to make it the one thing that was immune to the Forever Night. He has unleashed that endless black on Teiravon and he will not rest there. How many clocks in this stale tower will cease their moving before the reality will set in for you?” she grabbed at his robes falling to her knees, “Remember your promises, your oath to one world!”
Time closed his eyes and moved back through the seconds, the minutes, the hours, the years, the centuries, eons of time flashed before him until he stood in a room of blackness. Around the room there were points of light, each one, a planet, a star, comet or asteroid and directly in front of him stood Nature and Death each with a hand outstretched. Hovering above their outstretched hands there spun a globe of light, small and fragile. “Do you stand with us Time?” the two beings asked in unison looking on the old man. He nodded and moved nearer to them, a hand coming up from his robes to meet theirs. Nature, Death and Time nodded to one another somberly and began the ceremony of beginning.
“I am the creator of life and I grant this world my gift,” Nature said softly.
Death his body seeming to be nothing but inky blackness held together by his robe, looked down on the world his eyes some place unseen and said, “I am the taker of life collector of expired souls and I grant this world final rest.”
Father Time stepped forward and placed his hand at the top of the globe, “I am Time, the constant of the universe and I grant this world existence.”
Tendrils of light and energy flowed between the three, through the globe transforming it. It throbbed turning from white to gray, the volcanos and the skies forming in an instant the seas pouring from its white poles. Whilst it continued to throb and shimmer like a blue green jewel each of them bent and blew on the world infecting it with life. “So this Teiravon, this first of worlds is born!” they said in unison their voices heard across all of creation. It had taken all of their power; all of their strength to create such a special thing as this and Nature although weak scooped the tiny world up in cupped hands. She outstretched her arms and blew on the world sending it ghently spinning into its place within the universe. “The Alpha world is created, and we shall protect it always for it is formed of us,” they spoke in unison again. They glanced at one another and nodded their heads in unspoken acknowledgment.
“You remember well Time,” Nature said, waking him from his memory. Pulling herself up, she turned an hourglass over its sands slowly spilling into the lower chamber. “Now see what the guardians do, see how they battle for our world.” The granules spilled to the bottom chamber her hands working them into forms through the glass. Slowly they gathered piling one onto the next, clumping and forming into shapes. First the legs and then the torsos, arms and then heads, the sands danced and whirled in a dust storm within the glass and the two guardians were at once visible. Justice and the Daemon Foul. They lunged and struck, parried and retreated and in an instant Nature and Time stood as if with them unseen by either of the immortals.
“The game is over,” Foul sneered angrily. “Whilst we have fought the world has changed. My minions and the elements have made Teiravon as I have seen fit for it to be.”
Justice wiped blood from his face, sweat stinging his eyes. His cloak and garb of green nothing more then tattered rags. He had been fighting so fiercely willing his survival, defending himself from the obvious power of Death’s Taker of Souls that he had paid little attention to his surroundings. Perhaps change had occurred so slowly that he hadn’t notice but now with the daemon stopping his onslaught he took it all in. No longer was the place where they stood a snowy peak. Now it was a dark and lifeless place of ash and stone void of the lush pines or the biting cold. The sky was red as if on fire, winds whipped into a frenzy scorching the landscape the brothers Fire and Air uniting their powers in a most destructive way. The red skinned Foul his head low, his horns pointing daggers at the Bringer of the Balance smiled his sickening approval. Justice looked down from the peak over the land and watched as it continued to morph into its horrific new form. For as far as he could see nothing of the old world’s inhabitants remained to wage war on his brother’s disciples. How horrifically they must have died. How merciless the onslaught must have been. Driders, warped creations of the Black Queen Lloth marched over the ridges and through the valleys returning from their bloody feasts on the world. Their black eyes like beacons shimmering in the red reflection of the sky. Evil’s conspiracy was complete. “Justice”, the concept in which this guardian based his balance, had even forsaken them. He fell to his knees and wept.
The Daemon, laughed his voice carrying over the entirety of the realm, shaking the dead mountains and bringing the Drider’s eyes to attention on his location. “The whole of Teiravon is mine, finally mine and there is nothing left to stop me! Weep brother, cry your salty tears of weakness and welcome your fate!”
Justice leaned back onto his feet, his arms spread wide and screamed to the skies, “Damn you all!” The cry was inhuman, beyond angry, more than mournful. The daemon did not delay; he ran forward and thrust the Taker of Souls through the fallen guardian’s chest. Justice was silent, his eyes wide, tears running streaks of blood backward into his silvery hair. He was motionless, calm, seeming to be at peace; his eyes unblinking, looking toward the red sky.
The one that men called “him” breathed heavy standing over the Bringer of the Balance. “You were never worthy to be as we are, to be one of us,” he said, grasping a handful of Justice’s hair and tilting his head so that he would have to look at him. Rising up again, the Daemon took in a large breath of air and with both hands on the sickle twisted it, the might and the power of the elements coursing through him and into the wide-eyed Justice and with that the guardian’s end came.
The Daemon did not savor his victory for long. He lifted his head and sniffed at the air. “The scent of dying flowers?” he questioned softly, unbelieving. He looked over his shoulder toward where the unseen Nature and Time stood. “Dear Mother of all creations you’re still with us?” he chuckled uncomfortably. “I am honored that you saw fit to witness the fulfillment of my destiny.” He smiled but it came as uneasily as his laughter. “You must be so weak and frail, I can end that suffering, simply show yourself and I will kiss you with this blade,” he said pulling it from Justice’s chest and turning toward where they stood.
Nature sobbed, unwilling or perhaps unable to speak. Pain wracked her body to the core. Time glared at the daemon, and hugged the weak Nature close to him, keeping her from falling. Still unseen, he uttered a single word, “Never.”
Foul did not see the man that spoke the word but knew well his tone. “Time?” he asked his head cocking to the side, his hoofed feet carrying him slowly forward. “Time!” he yelled again. “Show yourselves!”
The old man pulled nature closer, her body shaking as chills ran through her. He draped his cloak up over them both and instantly they were far from the Daemon back in the safety of the tower. Time gently placed Nature on the bed and kissed his hand placing it on her forehead. “I am so sorry,” he whispered shaken by what he’d seen. He stroked his beard his eyes glazed, still in a state of shock. He could not simply sit idly by and allow Foul his prize. To do so would find him in servitude to the unstoppable juggernaut that the dark lord was becoming. He walked from the small alcove into the hall of clocks and floated quickly to a small wooden case at its very end. His hands fumbled for a key in his robe. Finding it he placed it in the lock. With a click it opened the doors popping open on spring hinges a small shelf covered in a royal blue satin coming into view. On it was a small clock ornate and beautiful, crafted of jade and ivory. Time reached in and gently lifted it from its nest, the whole of it not much bigger then his hand. He looked on it as he always did in awe of its absolute precision, the finest of pieces he had ever crafted. Never did it lose a fraction of a second it was infallible, absolute.
He moved slowly down the hall, careful not to drop or damage it, back to where Nature lay trembling. He placed it on the table and brought the candle closer. It whirred and ticked its gentle sound soothing to the ear. “To right the wrongs,” he said in a whisper. Far off at the base of the tower the squeals of Driders could be heard as they made their way up the stairs their cries echoing off the stone facade. Foul had sent them to stop Time. The smell of sulfur shot through the tower and in a puff of crimsons smoke, the demon appeared.
“Father Time, feeble old fool that you are, give me that clock!” he hissed.
“You’re too late, your plans are in ruin, your time is up!” he said turning back the minute hand.
“Noooooo,” came the demonic cry cut off as the minutes flowed backward, the guardian now gone as if never there. Time stood somewhere outside of time-space, watching as events happened in reverse. His conversations with Nature, her arrival and finally he was alone again still turning the hands backward, faster and faster a smile coming to his old lips.
Time passed in an instant years erased from Teiravon, those that were dead and buried were unburied, their souls blown back into them closed doors being thrown wide open again, the world in a perpetual reversal. Further and further back in time, the armies of the realm again marching this time backward from where they had gone to combat the Forever Night. Then all at once peace and perfect silence the world stood still. Not a noise was heard, not a blade of grass blew in a wind, nothing. The realm was a painting on a vast and unending canvas. Time marveled at its glory, the monuments the high evolutionaries had made to him in marking time as he did, developing clocks and calendars all things that breathed life into him as he now gave them life. He sank down in his chair and removed his finger from the hands of the clock and sighed struck by how young he suddenly felt, as young as the world.
Justice stood again, on the mountainside he had stood on so many years before watching the advance of the Forever Night, Emerald standing by his side nervously poking at the dirt. Justice patted his old friend gently. “The magics of the guardians protect this place from the forever night for now, fair Emerald,” he said and before he could complete his sentence he was struck by a presence that he had felt only once before. The smell of spring surrounded him and his trusty steed an impossibility given their wintry locale. “Nature?” he questioned aloud, turning to look for her.
The lady held in reverence by guardian and man materialized before him in a flurry of leaves and wind. She was radiant her brown hair flowing in the gentle breezes that surrounded her. Beautiful she was her skin white as a driven snow, her lips the color of ripened strawberries, her eyes as blue as a deep sea. She wore robes of white and a cloak of woven vines that bloomed honeysuckle. Upon her head a woven crown of green flowered with white roses sat just askew making her seem as innocent as a child. Innocent however, she was not. Sagely and tenacious was how the guardians had come to know her. The green guardians bowed on knee his eyes averting hers. “Your eminence,” he said quietly.
“Rise up Justice, now is not the time for protocol or chivalry,” she said, “we have work to do. The dark lord Foul must be stopped, many mad plans has he and I have spent what seems an eternity in coming to you.”
Justice was confused but rose to his feet in compliance. “Whatever your wish fair mother of all things, shall be my honor to give.”
Nature stroked his hair, “It has never been so good to look on you, but time is a commodity we don’t have and refection on what might have been is pointless for it shall never be.”
Emerald looked to Justice and he to Emerald both lost by the woman’s words.
She smiled and laughed turning on her heels knowing they were being watched. “To the Watching Well, Bringer of the Balance,” she said softly the three of them enveloped in an ever stronger and faster whipping wind, a flash of bright light and then the sound of rushing waters. The Watching Well, deep within a castle lying in the Northern forests was visible to him now, voices coming through the whooshing sounds of the winds that harkened Nature’s arrivals and departures.
“Stay your place!” Foul erupted angrily demanding that the elementals not depart. Behind him the threesome of Nature, Justice and Emerald appeared. He turned around furious. “What brings you here, kind Nature?” he said with a slight bow of his head his respectful tone as false as his seeming ignorance.
The woman shook her head, “Oh, I think you quite well know wicked one, so spare us your feint of ignorance. You overstep your bounds and we are here to stop you.”
The Daemon seethed, “You will stop nothing! Your own sons have had enough of this cancer of creation you have brought upon us all!” He raised his hand high summoning forth the Taker of Souls. The buzzing like that of a thousand bees washed over the room as if flew from the blackness into his hand.
“My father’s blade!” Justice said in shock at the sight. He stood firm his crook charging to life, a green glow surrounding the guardians, “What have you done?”
Foul looked on his brother Justice in disgust, “So frail, so human still, you are the bastardization of us all!”
Nature stood forward, her dignity and serenity now a memory. Her eyes were like two burning suns, her arms forming two green serpents that hissed angrily wanting to strike. “The weapon you wield has no power over me. You are filth a scum that permeates every corner of the realm but I grant you your place. You will give me that scythe or I will tear your arm off with it when I come to take it!” she shrieked so loudly that the earth split beneath her feet.”
The four elementals cringed in knowing, relenting immediately to her power. They backed away from the well fearful. “Your corruption ends now or I will devour you in the power of the elements that you sought to take as you own!” she said the look on her face evidence of her truthfulness. She wanted him to resist, to find justification in his slaughter.
The daemon kneeled the sickle dropping to the floor with a metallic clatter. Justice moved forward and took it up in hand, feeling its power. How familiar this felt, how natural. The blade hummed with his touch and he looked up at it unsure of what it indicated. “My father, what have you done with Death?” he asked wildly wanting to bury the blade in the Dark Lord’s spine.
“Your father will be mended as this world is mended Justice. Do not strike at him. Better that he should return to the ninth plain and remember well the resolve of goodness,” she said looking on Justice her eyes again blue.
Foul was silent. He breathed through his teeth, wanting to lung forward and kill them all but now was not the time. He would be destroyed as Justice would have been destroyed if he attempted to overcome their combined might. He accepted his defeat, what he could not accept was how it had come to be. What point of planning he had overlooked, how they had come to know of his intent where it concerned the elementals. When he figured that out it would be him that stood over them and he would not grant them retreat.
“To the hells with you!” Nature commanded light and wind covering the kneeling daemon and with a flash he was gone.
Justice still stood amazed by the situation at hand. Nature was a passive entity that was felt by all things. For her to be brought into the fray foretold of but one thing, oblivion. Had his brother come so close to achieving his mad goals? He shuddered at the prospect.
Nature returned to her placid and beautiful form and stood at the well looking on her four sons. “You have brought great dishonor on yourselves,” she sighed softly. “Joining yourselves to such misguided causes.” She shook her head. She was motherly in her approach, compassionate and they were as receptive as children. “You must never again be tempted by the promises of the guardians. They would exploit your abundant power and use it for their own gain. To make this right you will go to the four corners of the world and you will remake it more wondrous then it ever was.” They were silent but obedient, not wishing her wrath but moreover they were enlightened, understanding that corruption of their power was possible and that they were not above being used in ways counter to their wishes. “Well then go!” she said with a giggle that was playful as a young girl’s. Each of the elementals assumed their natural forms and shot off to the four points of the compass, never saying a word.
Emerald bit at Justice’s cloak as if knowing through some sense that it was time for them to leave as well. The guardian put his foot into a stirrup kicking his other leg over the horse’s back and grabbed hold of the reigns. Nature walked to the horse and rubbed a hand gently over his cheek, looking up at Justice. She was quiet taking him in, seeming to marvel at Death’s sole creation. She felt the bit of him that was Death and she also felt that part of him that was his mortality. Never would she have dreamed that the two could have been combined but more she never believed Death could ever have been so giving of himself. “You won’t be needing that,” she smirked her hand tapping on the scythe, “I’ll return that to your father. I am sure he is already waking with the retreat of the Forever Night.” She felt a kindred bond between the two of them, had seen his devotion to the cause of the balance. Death took from the world every moment of every day but he had given to it something quite unique. “Now go, you will soon have a new world to watch over.”
The confusion on his face was still quite evident. “Will you ever indulge me in the true happenings of this day?” he asked his tone defeated knowing that the sage would keep her secrets close to her.
“Perhaps,” she replied a twinkle in her eye, “one day when the world is much older. For now, just know that we are of a likeness I thought I would never know. Goodbye Justice.”
The man that was a guardian and the horse that was his friend regarded her for a long moment, knowing that she was so reclusive that they might never see her again. Justice leaned forward and pointed a finger to the air, a ripple of energy tearing a hole to the ether and he and the horse disappeared into nothingness.
Mother Nature sat on the wall of the well her hands on her thighs and looked around at the darkness of the room. With a sigh she kissed her hands and blew on them, sending the scent of jasmine to the winds, “Thank you Time.”
And from a place far away, and a time known as today, there came a voice. It whispered sweetly over all that had been said before, “The end”. Closing the book of creation the woman smiled looking at little Lupus, his eyes like two silver coins. He was the smallest of the pack, so young, yet he’d managed to stay awake through the entire tale. In the other beds his brother, sister and cousins snored and purred happily roaming in their dreams, perhaps on their first hunt.
“Aunt Sasha,” he asked with a yawn, “have you ever met Justice or the Lady Tihr, oh or how about Emerald!” Not waiting for his answer he became wholly serious, “Will the evil red man Foul come for me?”
She stifled her laughter, scratching the back of his head thinking on how she had come to know all of those guardians in puzzling and mysterious ways. “When you are older you must head far to the north, there is where Justice dwells. In a big, dreary castle in the middle of what seems like nowhere. The Lady Tihr can always be found in a breeze, or she might tickle your feet if you allow the grass there to touch your toes,” she said. “Foul, well, that daemon usually stays far from these lands, still planning and plotting his conquest of the land.”
Lupus looked on in surprise, not truly expecting that the story he’d been told was true but more so that his Aunt Sasha knew the guardians. “I want to ride Emerald one day!” he said with a giggle.
Sasha kissed him and hugged him as tears rolled down her cheeks. She wiped away what she could and quickly blew out the candle so he couldn’t see her sadness. The darkness beckoned her and she was doomed to follow or maybe more correctly she was willfully choosing to follow. Her answers surely had not come in the light; perhaps they would in the darkness. She wiped what remained of the tears from her face and walked to the door. “Night Aunt Sasha,” Lupus whispered, “See you in the morning.” She braced herself with the door sorrow washing over her, knowing that would not be so. She would be gone and fates willing for his sake, he would never ever see her again. She closed the door and made her way to the Den’s waterfall exit, demanding of destiny an outcome.
II. The Defenders
The darkness continued its advance on the land; like a swarm of locusts it devoured countrysides. Nature cried out in pain, her children abandoning the forests, the skies and the deep lairs under the seas in search of refuge. The very ground trembled and heaved in sighs expelling rock and ash into the surrounds of Teiravon. The fair lands and waters of this realm stood as lone sanctuary from the impending doom. Here darkness was being slowed, not stopped but stunted. The waters of the far eastern seas were already enveloped in darkness, the western lands coming into a dusk that harbored night’s impending arrival.
On a mountainside, Justice stood looking out into the far off distance, watching as the horizon turned at first a deep blue and then black. Emerald, who stood beside him looked on as well, snorting and digging his right front hoof into the ground. Justice raised a hand and patted his old friend’s neck. “The magics of the guardians protect this place from the forever night for now, fair Emerald. Each of my brothers and sisters stands watch over the North, South, East and West. We fight to spare the mortals of this place this unnatural end, for we have come to love this land and would miss it if it were gone.” The image of the guardian slowly faded from view. The seeing waters of the Watching Well rippled and then blurred and as it did, the four elements watching the guardian at once turned their watchful gazes to Him, he that stood watch over all things.
“You see,” he spit, “the guardians of the realm conspire against me. The immortals are once again involving themselves in the matters of men. Teiravon is my prize! In order that your world be born anew, I must have her! For their souls you are given a new beginning, a cure from this disease of evolution that has seen once primitive nomadic cultures that moved across the world manipulate your powers, erect cities into the soil, pollute the waters, even wage war upon fields meant to sustain them.”
Fire leaned forward over the well, his tongue of flame licking at the air around him. Embers popped in flickers and sparks as he spoke, “Enough!”
“Yessss,” the giant of rock and soil that was the Land belched, bits of dust and small stones spewing forth, “enough of this talk. You would condemn man’s manipulation yet seek to do similar?” he said in a low tone.
Water oozed, rising and falling in gulps, dispersing and then reforming, “You wish to slay this immortal?” it gurgled.
“Voices and plans travel the air and are heard by me,” the wind hissed around Him in a whirlwind, the mist that surrounded them dancing on its breezes. “There are no secrets from usssss.”
The Daemon that was he was indignant, his mouth forming a sly grin. His horns flashed and his nostrils heaved as he spoke, “Very well then, I will spare you false platitudes. I seek to slay the one called ‘Justice’ and decimate the immortals’ southern flank. I will slay him and darkness will come to Teiravon. The cities will fall, the beauty will crumble, and her souls will be mine, finally.”
Fire roared as he looked across the well, which they all stood around, “One guardian may not slay another, your plans are those of a fool. You will fight to a stalemate with Justice and you will find no more of a victory than he will find a defeat.”
The Daemon stepped back from the well and raised his clawed right hand high, calling forth a great scythe from the mists. It flew through the air with a whoosh and fell into his hand with a snap, glowed brightly for a moment and then turned deep black. He gripped it tightly and held it high. The elements that surrounded him looked from one to the next. “This is the taker of souls, the weapon of Justice’s father Death. Alone I cannot kill him, it is true,” he growled, “however, with the weapon of his father and the blessings of the elements, this immortal will fall.”
Again the elementals looked to one another. The Daemon stepped back from his place at the well and walked past each elemental in turn, “You doubt me, and you doubt that Death would give me his blessings in killing the one mortal he refused to take the soul of. It is true he would not, but we have stolen so many souls that Death is without power. He is weak, for without the living there is no power left for him to take from. I simply pried it from his feeble hands. If blessed with your combined elemental powers, nothing will stop its’ blade from devouring one last soul, that of the once mortal Justice.” He stepped between the Land and the Water, waving the Scythe from one to the next, as it hummed in his hands. “If you want rebirth it is within your grasp,” he bellowed as he laid the weapon across the well. “What say you, Fire?” he asked slyly his eyes wide.
Fire placed a flaming hand upon the Scythe, “Rebirth,” it said aloud.
“And the Land?” the Daemon continued.
“Rebirth,” it replied placing its hand upon the Scythe.
A spout shot forth and showered the Scythe, “Rebirth,” it said in a gurgle.
The Air did not wait for the question; it swirled around the weapon of Death and held tightly in place the hands of the other elementals. “Rebirthhhhh,” came a word on the wind.
“Rebirth!” He shouted, his eyes bright.
“Rebirth!” The four elementals said in unison, their power rushing forth into the sickle. Fire to burn, water to drown, air to buffet, and earth to crush, the powers of the elementals coursed through the weapon in a fury. With a grumble, the lands near the well quaked, the waters of the well boiled and the air trembled, until finally it was done.
High above his head, with both hands he held the scythe, his head raised and eyes focused. It shimmered between flame, water, earth and air, the four powers of the elementals dancing along the blade and handle. He had been granted his weapon to see Justice’s end. Teiravon’s sheltered souls would soon be his.
All around him on the winds of the realm there were carried sorrowful prayers to the guardians. No one knew the why or the what, when it came to the encroaching darkness. Mothers cried for sons, fathers cried for daughters, the realm was a tumult of sadness. Clerics stood off in high temples and raised their hands and voices to the sky, praying to the Father that the guardians would maintain their power and continue to keep Teiravon itself from harm. Already the outer world had been swallowed up in the pitched black of forever night.
On a snowy peak overlooking one of these ancient temples stood Abbalar. He had been there for some time, listening, indifferent; his power already occupied in keeping the realm safe. He spun around on his heels sensing a presence and rubbed his hands together, electrical currents pulsing between them, “Alright then Justice, you intend on sneaking up on your little brother do ye?”
Bits of the ground paces off flew up as an unseen hoof dug at the earth.
“That blasted mount of yours gives you up every time! The wind carries his foul breath across the whole of Teiravon,” he scoffed.
With those words came the thunderous charging of Emerald, divots of dirt popping into the air from his pounding hooves. Abbalar’s cloak blew straight up behind his head, his dark hair dancing in frenzy on the wind that swirled round him. His eyes darting away from the invisible menace, looking up and with a thought he was moving off into the air. He could feel the approach of his brother and knew just a moment too late what was to come. The horse and guardian appeared from nothingness, the crook that he always carried humming loudly. “To me!” Justice yelled and in a flash Abbalar was by his side, the green guardian swooping him up by the collar in his large hand. The younger guardian swung around, lightning forming in the palms of his hands. It erupted from his fingertips as he grabbed onto Justice’s forearm. Horse and guardian, stunned by Abbalar’s speed, reared backwards in surprise and pain tossing the young immortal to the ground. Justice chuckled calming a startled Emerald and halted his advance. He threw his hands up in mock surrender, “Mercy dark Abbalar!” he coughed.
“Hmph!” Abbalar replied with a smirk pulling himself up from the ground and dusting himself off, walking to the cliff’s face.
Justice dismounted Emerald and approached his brother; they met cheerfully patting one another on the back. “Tis good to see you,” Justice said joining Abbalar at the edge.
“Aye tis good to see you as well brother. Perhaps you can muster the pity to answer these woeful prayers. They are incessant, without end, I cannot humor such pleadings. We do what we can, have they not seen that we have halted the Forever Night’s advance?”
The grey blue eyes of Justice looked down on the temple and shook his head, “The land hurts, its people hurt, and the elements seem in conspiracy to see Nature undone,” Justice said.
Abbalar nodded acknowledgement. “Yes brother, I agree her children conspire with the night to purge this place of every living thing. They shall not have their victory however, we shall mend Nature and stifle the night.”
“Perhaps, “ Justice said as if not believing it, “we stifle the onslaught but still the realm is shaken and bleeds from deep within. Nature may find no peace in which to rest and mend. The onslaught of the night is without ending.”
Abbalar was reassuring, “I hold the West brother, and the night shall not find me asleep. My power holds the line, the mountains strengthening the fortification with their mighty backs.”
Justice stepped back away from the sheer mountain face and listened to the wind. “Do you feel it?” he asked looking back at his brother.
“Aye,” Abbalar replied in quiet surprise, “another of our kind comes this way.”
They each stood back to back waiting for that which beat a path to them. Then from nowhere, tendrils of energy gathered in front of them and came together in a spiral, they chased each other’s tails until finally they were one and a gateway appeared. From it emerged a woman in a dark flowing cloak, her golden hair shimmering in the blue light of the portal. Tihr a’ Lahn, the Lady of the Forest and Seer of the Oracle, stood there in front of them but she did not look well.
“Sister!” Abbalar cried out grabbing her weakened form and lifting her up in his arms. He carried her to a fallen log and laid her beside it. Justice ran to Emerald and withdrew a blanket from his pack, running back he bundled it up in his hands, putting it behind her head.
Tihr shook her head from side to side, her skin pale. “No, no, must tell you!” she screamed her eyes crazed, clutching onto Justice’s shirtstrings.
The brothers looked on one another for a moment wondering what madness had befallen their sister. “She is affected by the assault on nature just as the faeries are, look at how the color has drained from her,” Abbalar said quietly.
Tihr grabbed firm hold of Justice and pulled him near, her eyes now wild. “Great power seeks to take the soul of an immortal. With the end of the one they seek to destroy, the darkness will come to Teiravon and we will all be consumed in the night! Run from here Justice! Run! Your soul…” and then she was at once silent. Another look now came to her eyes, one that was familiar but not her. Her grip became much tighter on Justice and she turned to Abbalar. “Ahhhh, the little one that guards the West,” came the hissing from her mouth the voice suddenly as familiar as the look in her eyes. She brought her free arm back and with a furious backhand she sent Abbalar into the air. He flew backwards for many feet until finally he was launched off the side of the mountain. He tumbled without a word, trees below creaking and splitting as he landed far below.
Justice grabbed hold of the hand that held him fast and pulled himself away from it. He rolled backward and flew to his feet, summoning forth Emerald and his crook. He that lived in all things evil and unkind emerged in a flame from Tihr’s eyes. The Seer heaved him forth from deep inside her and cast him out into the world. She lay there motionless as the Daemon formed from the flames she’d expelled, unconscious. Kneeling next to her, he that was evil ran a clawed finger over her lips, his hooves melting the snow beneath him. He smiled at her mockingly and roared a monstrous cry that shook the mountain. Rising to his feet to face Justice, he began to laugh as he surveyed the guardian and his steed.
“What have ye done to Tihr?” Justice demanded undaunted, holding his crook fast in his hands. “Possession of a guardian; do your sick magics know no limits of disgrace and dishonor!”
The Daemon stood fast; his mouth opening, his teeth sharp, his tongue forked. “Mind your tone Justice,” he said angrily. “Yours is not to question me. You have denied me my prize for far too long and I will devour every guardians until finally that which is mine belongs to me!”
“That which belongs to you? The realm belongs to the creatures big and small that inhabit it just as much as it belongs to those that created it. I will deny you your prize for it does not promote the balance, anarchy and oblivion will be countered!” Justice bellowed baring his teeth and firming his stance.
The Daemon’s mouth formed an unholy smile as his hands reached skyward. “Your father and the elements beg to differ with thee, Bringer of the Balance!” From the sky there came a rush of buzzing like a million bees and then it was in his hand. The Taker of Souls, the scythe of Justice’s father Death, danced in the hands of evil and shimmered with the power of the four elementals.
Justice’s stomach turned with the sight for he felt the power of the sickle and knew at once that what the Daemon said must be true. His own father and the elementals had indeed conspired with Him to destroy Teiravon and to snuff life and Nature from all things.
Foul stood satisfied, surveying the horror in Justice’s face, the way his eyes looked on the blade, unmoving. The deception was working. More than the elementals’ betrayal the belief that the one that had given him new life and immortality referring to him as son had sent this abomination to end his life, leeched at the power of Justice. The Daemon could see his lungs heave with the weight of this knowledge, his knees weakening, his stance softening.
“Ready yourself,” He that was evil said softly. “Resist me not and your end shall be swift, your soul finally set free, your natural end finally coming as it should have long ago on that day Death granted you his grace.”
Justice stood there, watching the Daemon who advanced on him and did not move. If Death had sent his mighty blade to end his days then so be it.
IV. The End Times
Cold, it was all he could feel. The air around him blew in icy sheets that washed over him, the snow beneath his feet crunching as he adjusted his weight and lowered his crook. More than anything the coldness of realization was what chilled him most. Though imparted with a bit of the essence of Death, Justice still felt twinges of his former humanity; emotions, those things that were neither based in logic nor in law, simple feelings felt at the core. A great pain had come over him, a pain he could not remember having ever felt. His chest hurt, yet the daemon had not yet struck his blow; his throat closed in and tightened. What strange sensations he thought, how overwhelming they were.
Only feet away from him lay the unconscious Tihr a’ Lahn. She was unmoving, unknowing, for the better that she not see the coming of his end. I brought this on you fair seer he thought sadly remembering their last conversation. How rude he had been when consulting her about the disappearance of Silyar how he’d questioned her vision as of late. She truly was a powerful guardian. She had come here to save him, had overcome the daemon that had inhabited her to tell him of its arrival, buried it deep within her until finally she could hold it back no more. What a battle she must have fought to contain a thing such as this. The game however, was ended. In moments he would die and the magic fields of the south would crumble, Methos and Arkael defending the North and the East, would see the approaching night and know in an instant that the realm would fall. How I failed you all, he thought.
Hopelessness had finally gripped him. It was futility fighting the darkness, in the end all things considered it was an inevitability, the light would always be devoured in night. Without even realizing what he was doing he fell to his knees and looked down on the ground his eyes filling with the whiteness of the snow, blurring over, his mind racing to far off places. Bits of memory that had made up the man he once was took him from that place. A child’s laugh, a woman’s smiling face, how beautiful they were and how badly he wanted to be with them, away from here away from the pain. Why save Teiravon if it kept him from them; Death had not bestowed a gift but a curse an eternity without them, faces that he could not name but felt so close to.
The Daemon that was him stopped his advance and stood there not knowing what had come to be of the Bringer of Balance. Why did he kneel there, motionless, his eyes vacant? It unnerved him. This was the man that Death had bestowed immortality upon, this flawed, weak soul? He had so hoped that Justice would resist, that he could see the look of pain and shock etched on his lips and in his eyes as he drove home the sickel’s power against the paleness of the guardian’s throat. Pathetic, he thought as he continued his advance raising the scythe of Death high above his head. He’d be doing all the guardians a favor he thought; this one was undeserving of immortality and power. He would remove his head, devour his immortal soul and rid Teiravon of its puny defenders once and for all.
Emerald paced and nudged at his master, pushing at him with his snout and naying loudly; Justice did not move. He continued to stare into the whiteness of the snow, never looking away. The mighty steed of a deep green, pleaded with his master dragging a hoof against him.
The Daemon sneered, motioning him away with the sickle “Filthy beast of the ether! Move back from your master so that I may strike my blow!” Emerald shook his head and rose on his hinds, his front hooves kicking at the air in distress. The evil that was Him stopped and laughed, “So, the beast stands against me while his master kneels.” The Daemon’s eyes narrowed, “It shall serve me well to kill you Emerald for you are yet another testament to the failed guardian that sat upon your back.” His stance firmed as he moved the dark weapon from side to side. Energy emanated from the black blade in ripples that reverberated, a shimmering veil like a mirage now forming between the great horse and the dark one. They fanned out encircling the horse, a warm breeze starting to blow from behind the Daemon.
With a sadistic smile hell’s conductor ceased his movements and brought the sickle down with a fearsome slash, with that the rippling energy around the animal ignited in a furious ball of fire. The horse cried out and charged forward at a gallop, squealing in anger and pain rushing the Daemon who now raised his blade high. The horse leaped at him and kicked and bit, his eyes black with anger. The Daemon fell to a knee in defense of himself, holding the sickle from hand to hand across his chest and over his head, fending off attack after attack. His lips twitched as he chanted working his magic, stunned by the ferocity of the mythical beast. Lightning flew from the heavens and struck the attacking horse, the blast throwing both beast and daemon aside, both landing with a rumble. The Daemon was fast and on his hooved feet in an instant, as if in two places at once he was over the struggling Emerald in a flash. He came down on the horse with swipe after swipe the animal unable to recover and stand. Blood flew from cuts and slashes that formed on the horse’s hide, soaking the blade in crimson. As the sickle would rise and fall in a blur of speed, blood would fly round and splattered across the snow at which Justice kept looking. Emerald cried out in pain, clumsily grasping for a footing his head chasing after the Daemon’s legs trying in vain to mount some attack. “I won’t underestimate you again, you damned nag, when I am through with you this entire countryside will be littered in your remains! How dare you challenge me!” He was unrepentant in his fury, the horse struggling still to rise up. The legends of Emerald were not the makings of faerie gossip; the animal was as mighty as the stone that served as his namesake.
Still kneeling Justice continued to look on the snow, the visions within now smeared with the blood of Emerald. His eyes registered the sight but his mind still clawed to be nearer to the woman and the boy he saw within. They walked now on a green countryside, the woman picking berries the boy rolling in a field of heather laughing and giggling. He called out, “Find me if you can!” dropping to his knees and crawling through the dense growth deeper into the vision. He could easily make out his blonde hair in the green and though the child tried to stifle his giggles they betrayed him.
The man that was Justice moved toward where the boy was but before he could make a step there was a hand on his arm. The woman, her beautiful blonde hair tied behind her head, rogue curls breaking their bonds hanging loosely around her face. Her brown eyes were intensely serious. “If you follow him you will never return,” she said sadly. “If you follow him you will trade the world for your memories.”
Her beauty and the haunting tone within her voice stunned him, though he felt the touch of her hand it was still within a vision that he walked. “What matters the world anymore? It is here where I belong, with…” With whom, who were these people to whom he felt such attachment, some unseen connection.
Knowing his thoughts she answered his question, “With your dead wife and dead son?” she said softly her eyes welling with tears.
Wife and son he thought, overwhelmed. This was me this was what I was? He held the woman’s hands breathing deeply, looking down into her eyes taking in every facet of her beauty. His heart raced with the knowing, he turned the boy standing deep in the distance waving his hand high beckoning him to come catch him.
Emerald’s blood mingling with the snow washed the vision in a sea of deep red. His bride’s dress of cotton once a pale blue was soiled in crimson, her face etched in concern. “If you chase after him and join us, all of the world will perish,” she said tears running crooked paths down her cheeks. “We wondered, my love, until our dying days what had come of you. Our son now understands that to know of your fate is to know of great glories. Abandoning your destiny will bring you to us, but it shall also take you from many more. You must return, noble guardian, and return balance.”
“No!” he shouted. “This is a cruel hoax, I cannot be so cursed as to face a choice such as this! I will not leave you again, I have fought too long and I am tired. Eternity is to be spent by your side.”
She cried and pushed at him, “No! Yours is not to spend eternity by our side. You were chosen and it was not to be. You are Teiravon’s now! Return! Go! It is already nearly too late!” she sobbed. “Go my husband and from this day carry our love. What binds you now is grief, overcome that and destroy the evil.” The fair woman lowered her head and heaved with sadness; the boy, still waving for him to come hither. But off in the distance there came a sound of great horror, an animal under attack, calling out. The woman looked up at him, listening to the mournful cries. “You can stay no longer! Away!” she cried, pushing at his chest. “Away!” and then he felt himself being pulled backward at a great speed. Farther and farther away were they and nearer and nearer were the cries of the beast.
Emerald had rallied to his feet and was now cornered near the edge of the mountainside. His wounds oozed and bled and his eyes grew distant. “You’ve been quite the hunt,” the Daemon said in mocking reverence. “Now comes the end for you and then so too it shall come for your master!” The horse beat at the earth in defiance. Shaking his head angrily. “Oh you are more frightful then a thousand Nightmares, but you will die nonetheless.”
“Foul!” there came the loud roaring of Justice’s voice. He stood again noble and true; crook in hand, a scowl upon his face. “Tis me you want, dear brother? Tis me you shall have!” He waved his hands and summoned forth a gate, “Emerald be gone!” he said energy embracing the mighty horse. “To Shorecrest with you, seek Silyar and be mended!” Justice bellowed and then the horse was gone.
The Daemon turned his horns and eyes flashing contempt. He struck at the air and brandished the sickle, his laughter more a shrieking. “So you will finally give me what I want, both your immortal soul and the immense pleasure of tearing it from you!”
Justice stood defiant. “Those that have conspired against the Balance shall all find death this day, may you be the first!” Images of his wife and son drove him forward in a rage his crook glowing green.
The Dark Lord Foul turned to face his brother, the taker of souls humming loudly, the blood of Emerald still tainting its blade. “That’s it Justice, come now and rush head long into your end!”