One evening, I was in the study and looking at a version of my book that did not quite mesh right with the surrounding time streams yet was resonating far closer already than it did when first I had retrieved it from a time before Sepheal's Tower fell.
I was just passing time, thinking of nothing in particular, reading the same observation over and over again when something fell upon me, the likes of which I had never known, never experienced before.
Something fell upon me, a darkness, a coldness, something indescribable that made my heart stop and when it started again, beat heavy and slow.
I sought for the source of this invasion but could not find it anywhere.
I sought to contain myself and pass the sensation off as nothing but a fancy; a half sleep visitation of a kind, perhaps a flash of my former madness but it did not satisfy me, nor could I allay a definite notion that something was not as it had been before. I attempted to concentrate on the book but could not. I sent for fresh wine but even that did nothing to take away a feeling of gathering dread and wrongfulness that seemed to be in the very air around me. I left the house and walked amongst the trees, but it was even stronger, as though the devastation lay inside the wind and dredged my purposes to the extreme. I found that my hands were shaking and I could not stop myself – I had to go to the island.
On this particular visit, I did not have to ask the usual question.
Every available mind was in an uproar of panic and instantly, I started running for the building before I even had a chance to think about it.
The garden was forsaken and I walked through towards her bedroom, stationing guards behind me as I went in case there was some kind of treachery afoot.
They were all in her room, Catena and that pet vermin of hers, and she lay absolutely motionless and white on the bed, laid out to all intents and purposes as a corpse would have been.
I stared through the one way mirror in the hallway at the scene and I knew that a panic had enveloped me before I had a chance to curtail it or control myself.
It had never occurred to me in all my plannings that she would die before she gave birth.
It had never occurred to me at all.
I opened the door and went inside.
Catena and the boy both turned to me, both their faces wet and eyes sunken and red rimmed. I ignored them and made for my wife, bend to her and placed my finger on her cold, white neck.
There was no pulse.
Resolutely, I picked her up which made her extended stomach apparent and caused me to flinch, momentarily.
I carried her through the corridors and heard behind me a scuffle ensuing as the guards stopped Catena from coming through. At the last exit which led to the outside of the circle’s protection, I hesitated briefly, stopped and looked down at her.
These damned circles were both a blessing and a nightmare. She appeared to be dead but that didn’t necessarily mean she was not just pretending, for this very purpose of tricking me into taking her outside to heal her or to bring her back, so that she could get away or attack me swiftly, unexpectedly.
I took a deep breath then, focussed myself with the tightest of awarenesses and entered into the storm that defined the outside barrier, absolutely alert and ready on all levels, in all ways, to catch her out should she attempt to do anything at all.
We passed through the storm and I pounced on her as soon as I could, throwing a track across her but she wasn’t there.
She was not there anymore.
She was really gone.
Inside her, the child was dead also.
Now of course, I can bring her back again.
And still and in spite of me knowing this, being here with the guards gathering at a distance behind my back and the combined corpse of my wife and child in my arms, I experienced the nonsensical sensation of a loss so profound that I staggered and nearly fell to my knees.
And the most abhorrent thing of it all was my final understanding that the loss was not for the child but for her.
This, here, was the world I had been planning to create.
The world which did not contain this woman.
A world where the very wind knew she was not amongst us any longer, in an instant, on the other side of the kingdoms.
And it was not a world of freedom but a prison, a never ending punishment, a solitary confinement without any hope of escape in all eternity.
There would never be another like her.
There could never be another like her.
She was, in truth, the only one.
Something strange touched my awareness, something deep and far away and older than myself, something cold, far colder than her coldness in my arms.
This creature here was not even my wife at all.
She was something else and I had done a serious wrong in thinking of her in that way.
She had arrived in the shape of a girl but what lay within was no such thing.
And the truth is that I had always, always known this. I had always known it and fought it, spun illusions around it, ran away from it, tried to protect myself from the one and only truth, and that was that she had come to claim me as her rightful belonging, her apprentice, her toy, her plaything.
Oh by all the damnations of all the darkest hells.
I took a deep breath and laid her gently on the grass.
For a moment I considered if I could will myself to walk away but indeed, the very thought made me smile so bitterly, it hurt the corners of my mouth . It was impossible. I shook my head and marvelled at my own foolishness. Still, I had to contemplate the other option of escape which was to kill myself here and now, take my own sword and bury it deeply in my heart to end myself and her at the same time. I didn’t even have to try and command my hands to move to know that it wasn’t an option.
Whatever this was, it was simply more than me. I had lived under an illusion of control.
For a brief short time I had thought I could be free. For a brief short time I had fooled myself that I could free myself from her, that her death could free me.
I shook my head again and wearily, began to expand myself and to form that shell around her that would contain her and move her physicality back in time to a place and a state when she was still enmeshed within her confinements of body and mind. It wasn’t hard to do. She was only one organism at this point and it had been only an hour or two that needed to be erased.
There was a deep temptation, once I was moving her in the flowing cascades to go on and further back, further and further still but this time it was easy to resist and I took her back until something inside me gave a silent command to stop.
I did, opened my eyes and she was breathing deeply, her eyes moving beneath her closed lids, the child invisible inside her yet clearly defined to me, moving its limbs, rising and falling in its surrounding ocean with her breath the tides, and I send them both a deepening calm and restfulness that would keep them asleep and contained until I had restored her to her rightful place within the universe.
I commanded the guards and Catena and the boy were brought to me.
I had them stand close then picked her up again. Resolutely closing myself to the sensation of her, alive and breathing against my chest, I transferred her to Catena’s ready arms and stepped them out and through to Merina.
Later that day, I had the vermin sent back from their exile in the grasslands and packed Marani off to tend her from hereon.
I dispatched the women, closed up Tower Keep and left for Sikoria later that afternoon.
I had a fancy for the sea.