The storm hit us and I began to push against it, reaching to link with Lucian by my side, whose hand in my was strong and vibrant and steady. With every step we took, the link deepened, and reality began to recede from me as I was beginning to see the first blurs of the other levels again. By my side, Lucian was also pushing from his end to link with me, and we began to weave together in spite of the storm around us, more and more strongly with every step, less and less became the interference, deeper and deeper the link, stronger and stronger the desire building up for vengeance and for justice and for sheer destruction, our separate desires merging stronger and stronger still, and then I no longer knew whose hands were whose and all I knew was a pure delight of deepest blood red emerging from within me and we burst through the barrier and collapsed into each other and I was –
I was vengeance.
I was strong.
I was so powerful.
I was so much and so deep and so wide and yet as tightly aligned as the sharpest cutting edge could be.
The light descended upon me, and with a wonderful delight I reached right into it, into its very heart, deep into its very centre and I grasped it and tore it to shreds.
A great wailing ensued and it was wonderful music that made me want to dance and dance I did, spreading destruction and great whirling explosions, wielding red lightning and tearing up the very fabric of their space in wonderful delight, an orgy of annihilation so wonderful, so pure and so all encompassing that I nearly lost cohesion altogether.
I did not stop until everything was torn asunder, nothing was left, the light totally extinguished and the music of cries and screams had faded to moans and then into silence.
Absolute silence and darkness.
It had been accomplished.
It was done.
And oh did it feel good!
There was something wet on my face and I reached up to get rid of it.
I opened my eyes to see Marani, dabbing at me with a damp dirty cloth. My neck was stiff and the sky above me was a night sky.
I sat up quickly, and looked down at my body. I was quite me, complete with body and turquoise ex-Serein garment. I checked my hands; one was covered in dried blood, and the other was not.
“Lucian?” I said, and brushed Marani aside and stood up.
The sky was black but strangely banded with streaks of silver grey, the reflections of an invisible moon, a feeling of a storm coming.
Marani must have moved me into the shadow of the cart, a way away from the stone circle. She was saying something behind me but I gave her no heed or attention and walked, then ran towards the standing stones, solidly black against the strange sky.
I made him out immediately, not with my eyes but with my proper senses, back and functioning as they should. He was fine, just resting, and the relief was enormous. He was lying curled up on his side, and around him lay the bodies of the five Serein, bony and thin under their flowing robes with which the night wind was playing softly.
I knelt by his side and touched his warm shoulder, gave him a little shake and a gentle touch with my mind.
“Lucian, wake up.”
He shot upright to full awareness and stared around himself wildly for a moment, then let out a breath and reached for a link with me which was already there. He flowed easily through it to me.
Concern, are you alright?
I’m fine, and you?
Checking, yes, I’m fine.
I let myself fall against his chest and put my arms around his waist. He enfolded me in his embrace and put his face into my hair.
We’ve done it. We’re alive and they are dead.
What have we done?
I think we’ve killed them all.
All the Serein? Is it possible?
I don’t know but we most certainly did a lot of killing. I could feel it.
All I could feel was destruction. It felt so good.
Yes I know.
I love you.
I love you.
We stood for a long time in each other’s embrace, and eventually and together we let go reluctantly.
Across the field, Marani stood in the darkness, an outline, but we could well enough sense her watching us both with intent and even some happiness amongst her non-understanding and fear of the sight of the battlefield to which she had returned as soon as the sun had sunk beneath the horizon.
“I need a bath,” said Lucian and scratched at his neck, where various congealed blood streaks resided.
I felt him reaching out across the field to where the closest of the soldier’s horses were grazing uneasily and uncomfortably through their iron mouthpieces and commanding them to come to us.
We felt them approach through the darkness, eager and happy to have a structure and order once more, and I noted that Lucian supressed a shiver as a strand of night wind touched his bare skin.
I smiled and picked my way carefully through the storm into the circle of stones once more, across the scattered bodies and their scattered belongings and limbs, seeking and finding the tapestry. I had a relationship with it that was not just that I shared from Lucian’s knowing but from my own too and it was the one thing I would not like to think of left here, amongst the rotting corpses, in the holy place we helped defile this past day. I picked it up and carried it in my arms back to him, arriving at the same time as two wild eyed huge horses, one brown and one grey, came skidding to a halt before him.
Lucian picked up the broken reins of the grey and effortlessly slid into the saddle. I handed him the tapestry up with a loving thought and he took it with gratitude and wrapped it around his shoulders, drawing it around himself and holding it tight at the front.
He kneeled the brown for me so I could mount, and was about to turn us away when I halted him.
I steered my horse to where Marani still stood, waiting, the wet rag she had applied to my forehead still hanging limply from her hand.
“We’re going to go back to the house. Shall we meet you there?” I asked of her. She nodded gratefully.
I smiled at her, nodded to Lucian and we set off at full stretched out gallop through the darkness, feeling the landscape around us in our minds and transferring the knowledge to the horses so they sped through the darkness more sure footed and elegantly than they ever had in full brightness. We were intimately linked yet no experience or knowledge was being transferred, just a deep and satisfying feeling of togetherness and unity of purpose.
It wasn’t long before we cantered up the drive and came to a halt outside the front door. Lucian dismounted in his usual fluid fashion and frowned.
“These horses will need to be looked after manually,” he remarked. I slid off the horse and nearly fell from the great height. He took the reins from me. “I’ll see to them, you may go on ahead.”
He handed me the tapestry and then led the horses to the empty stables at the side of the house, walking easily with bare feet across the stones and pretending to be heedless of the small stabbing pains I felt as cleanly as though they were my own.
I smiled lovingly at his back and pulled the door open.
All was as it had been before.
I set half a dozen fires in the holders and the great hallway sprang into brightness. It was good to be back. It was good to be back home. I smiled again at the thought and made my way up the stairs. I deposited the tapestry on his bed, and went into the indoor pool room and filled the tiled stone square with water. Experimentally, I tried to shift the water a little so it would be warmer than the night air and it bubbled more or less right away. I left it at that and added more ordinary water until the pool was full up and a comfortable temperature.
I immersed deeply in the wonderfully warm water – I will always remember this, the first time I had the feel of warm water all around my body in this way, and floated gently in the semi darkness until it occurred to me to set tiny mini flames of many different colours around the room. It was a beautiful effect. I expanded and reached out for Lucian who was in the stables still. My mind wandered further out and found Marani, on the road to the house, her back in agony from the bouncing cart but her heart happy at the thought that I was well. I briefly touched her fondness and admiration for me and withdrew, embarrassed. Letting myself drift under the water, I went into the patterns of her back, far away on the dark road, and I restored them from the ground up, following not the spider strands of what there was, but a perfection of what there could have been, easily and so lightly she never noticed that her spine re-grew and all the damage from years of hard labour and childbirth were repaired and a health restored that she had never possessed, not even in her long gone youth.
All was well. The water was warm and all was well. A part of me still could not believe it but it was so. Lucian was approaching, cold and itching and uncomfortable all over. I send him a sense of the warm pool and a languid invitation and received a deep smile and a longing in return.
He came into the room and looked at the tiny fairy lights with a sense of amusement but supressed any comment. Then his eyes settled on my in the water and I could feel his longing crest like a powerful wave.
“This might not be such a good idea,” he said out loud to help him retain control. I sighed deeply, sadly, and had to agree with him. There was no point in spoiling a perfectly good night. Reluctantly, I made myself rise from the pool and stepped out of it on the other side, away from him, turned sideways on and covered my breasts with arms crossed.
Thank you, he sent, controlled sadness and frustration intermingled, and then stepped into the bath himself. He immersed with a deep sigh but did not relax his intentions for a second. It was so hard to be him. I resolved to do something about that just as soon as I had figured out a way.
I should leave, I thought. But I could not leave until I had bent down and kissed him gently, chastely, on his wet lips and stroked his wet hair lovingly at least the once.
Then I left him alone and laid a cloak around my mind so he could be relaxing in privacy and without having to worry that my attention would be on him in any way. I wandered wet and naked into some rooms and eventually found a small room that served as a walk in linen cupboard. There were towels and new sheets for the beds, many, many of them stacked in silent rows, their edges brown with dust because they had not been used in such a long time, only the top two or three white in comparison.
I wrapped myself into one of the large towels and decided to wait for him in his bedroom. I was tired and comfortable now and did not feel like sleeping by myself. If I kept myself well wrapped up we could sleep together without incident.
So I snuggled up under his sheets, over to the wall so there would be room for him, and the bed was comfortable, the room dark, Marani was coming up the drive. All was well. I drifted in comfort and at an indiscernible time later, could feel his presence as he joined me. I drifted deeper and fell asleep.
I was standing in a grey wasteland that stretched as far as the eye could see. The sky above was grey, the ground below cracked, dry and grey, and there wasn’t a rock or a bush to break the incredible emptiness and desolation that surrounded me.
I walked a way, but the scene never changed, no matter which way I turned, and the burden of sadness and loneliness and nothingness became greater and greater until I was pushed to the ground under its very weight.
The pressure increased and increased until I couldn’t breathe anymore and I knew I was dying. I couldn’t call out and I couldn’t move, and then the pressure on my heart slowed its very beat, slower and slower still until it stopped altogether.
I awoke with Lucian shaking me by the arms and it was morning.
He looked pale and drawn.
Into my laboured breathing he said, “Isca, I think we have a serious problem.”