A Price too High to Pay
Part 5 - Last Words
Endio took a deep breath when the representatives of both Orders of Knights finally left the Council room. Preparations for the eminent attack were going smoothly and Knights carrying messages with requests of reinforcements had been dispatched to Leips and Harver, the Kingdoms that stood south of Mithir.
Endio sighed as his thoughts went to Elian, who had left almost four days ago. As much as he trusted the abilities and devotion of the Knights that accompanied him, he couldn’t help but worry and pray for his fast and safe return.
And yer, as of late, Elian wasn’t the only one in his thoughts. Word that the Northern Armies would soon attack Everlyn echoed everywhere, inside and outside the palace walls, and he couldn’t help think about Lidya, his heart secretly wishing he’d wake up, one day, to see that she had managed to reach Mithir safe and sound.
The sound of a soft murmur made him raise his head and look around, wondering if someone had come in without him noticing, but the heavy doors remained closed like before. And yet that murmur kept ringing in his ears, growing louder and louder, until, right before him, on the other side of the long table, a dark shadow took form making him jump to his feet in alarm.
The inhuman glow of two blue eyes quickly robbed his legs of their strength and he sat back on his chair, his mind completely blank, the words of disbelief lost in his parted lips. The shadow that now had attained the clear form of a man smiled and looked around appreciatively.
“I see it all remains the same …” he mused, his soft voice echoing phantasmagorically, and his blue eyes returned to the King who was staring at him in utter disbelieve. “Long time no see … How have you been, Endio?”
The King blinked and swallowed dry, forcing his voice to obey his own mind.
“Serafan …” he whispered and the apparition smiled, his body not quite real, allowing Endio to see through him.
“You’ve grown old, Endio. Which was to be expected, since you’re a mere Human and all …” he added with despise even though he sounded amused, and Endio seemed to recover from the initial shock.
“What do you want? I have no business to discuss with you!”
“Come on … is that any way to treat your old childhood friend? I here I am, goodwill incarnated, coming all this way just to bring you a message.” Endio remained silent, watching him as attentively as he would watch the worst of his enemies, and Serafan smiled, his beautiful face becoming even more charming. “Want to hear it in my voice, or in the voice of the one who sent it?”
“What are you talking about …?” the King asked as an ice cold snake slowly ate away at his insides and he started to fear the worst. Serafan looked at him, his deep blue eyes full of contempt.
“Hum … I see … you don’t even make use of the small gifts you were blessed with anymore. The Endio I knew in the past would have guessed the contents of the message I carry in a blink of an eye. And to think that you, one of the few truly blessed amongst this useless Human Race, decided to renounce all your gifts. You’re really pathetic, you know? At least she made use of the Strength inside her until the last moment!” he added and Endio felt his mouth turn bitter as he understood what he meant. “Fine, then, I won’t make you wait any longer …” he told him and Endio’s tired eyes saw that a new shadow took form beside him, his heart almost stopping when he recognized the pale woman that stared at him, her long hair golden like the sun, her golden eyes empty as she stared at him.
“Endio …” her broken voice echoed through the room and Endio had to blink back his tears as his sight blurred and became unfocused.
“How long has it been … And now there’s no time anymore … at least not for us …”
“Oh Lidya, please forgive me! If only I had been more …” she shook her head, silencing him, and smiled softly.
“No. Everything is exactly as it should be. You have to wake up, Endio! Or when you finally do so it will all be too late,” she added and her image began to fade into thin air.
“There’s still hope …” Were the last words he could hear before she was completely gone.
“Bring her back, Serafan!” he ordered in his kingly tone and Serafan laughed. “What have you done to her?!”
“Me?! Nothing, really. Lidya is the one to blame. She’s the one who went and lost my precious Jewel, after I’d been such a good friend and lent it to her in her time of need. I’m the victim here.”
Endio’s eyes flashed with pure fury, although he knew it was no use losing his temper with a mere shadow that wasn’t even a real being.
“How dare you! After all you’ve done! After all you put us through! All that happened! It was all your fault!” he shouted and Serafan laughed again.
“Really … you’re really funny. You know you’re the only being in all of Arnae that dares talk to me in that tone? I always wonder if it’s blind courage that allows you to do so, or if you’re just too dumb! And as for your accusations, as I recall it, I never forced any of you to do anything you didn’t want to,” he added and Endio bit down his lower lip unable to contradict him. “Oh well … let’s play a game, Endio, for old time’s sake, what say you? According to your beloved sister everything happens for a reason. Let’s test that theory, shall we?” Endio didn’t answer, fury consuming him inside, and Serafan smiled, pleased with the King’s expression. “Right now my armies are all spread out between Mádon, Everlyn and the Silver Forest, since there was no need to mobilize all my forces to conquer your sister’s pathetic Kingdom. Should my lost Jewel come into my possession before my armies regroup and reach Mithir’s borders I shall spare your Kingdom. Otherwise, I’ll transform your entire land into a sea of ashes. What do you say? I’m giving you this chance in the name of our old friendship, so that you can do the kingly thing and protect your people, and your loved ones, and so forth …” he added, waving a hand in despise. “All you have to do is find my Jewel before I’m ready to attack you. I’ll even give you a hint and tell you another thing. Lidya had it with her until not that long ago, of that I’m sure. Since she hasn’t left Everlyn in a while don’t you think that the possibility of it popping up in your Kingdom is rather high?”
“Go to hell, you and your stupid game!” Endio spat, raising his head and murdering Serafan’s smile. “I know nothing of your Jewel! But even if I did, if Lidya kept it away from you I’m sure as hell am not returning it to you! As for Mithir, come and get it if you can! And I’ll show you what mere Humans are really capable of!” he added and Serafan’s blue eyes glowed even brighter.
“You’re as selfish as everyone else, sacrificing all those who follow you so you can act in your dead sister’s stand. Do as you please, then,” he said and a smile returned to his beautiful lips. “I’m sure that whatever you do you’ll always be able to amuse me. Just sit there and wait, in anguish and sorrow, for judgment day. Breaking your soul will give me such a great pleasure that I can hardly wait! I’ll see you soon … my friend …” he added, scornfully, and vanished into thin air.
It was as if all strength had left his body and Endio held his trembling hands together, trying to stop them from shaking.
Warm tears streamed down his face as he recalled Lidya’s pale and tenuous image, and the words dead sister rang persistently in his head, robbing him of any and all coherent thoughts, leaving him as empty as an abandoned shell. Sure he had faced him bravely, but he’d only been able to do so while live, scorching anger burned inside him. Now all the anger was gone, and the only thing left was a deep, bitter sorrow and an invisible gashing wound right in the middle of his chest that he knew nothing in the world could heal.
“Lidya … I’m … so sorry …”