– The Vision of The Crowned and Conquering Child, the Lord Of the Aeon.1 –
“If I was born when I loved you ... what will there be left of me once you’re gone ...?”
The blast that echoed around me, followed by the shrieking sound of something breaking, sent me at high speed through an incandescent and bright tunnel.
The sudden braking, just a few seconds later left me lost and breathless, and the darkness around me blinded me again. For a moment I was completely deaf, the blast still echoing in my ears, but as the memory of that explosion started to fade, other sounds became progressively clearer.
I tried to focus my sight, demanding that my eyes get used to the sudden lack of light, and I almost screamed when I was suddenly aware that I was floating midair, very much above anything that could be called ground. For a moment I just stood there, terrified and unable to move, afraid that the Magic that kept me there might suddenly cease its effect, dropping me into a deadly fall. But then, the sound of metal against metal startled me, and I dared look down to where the sound was coming from.
I recognized the place at a glance, since Gabriel himself had taken me there just a few nights ago to show me his colorful barrier; the place where we had begun, where he had kissed me for the first time.
Practically below my feet was a large dome of light, much like the one where Lea had held me prisoner just until a few minutes ago. Inside it two shadows seemed to appear and disappear, clashing violently against each other, making the dome shake and vibrate in loud blasts.
I saw Alexander, standing to a side, trying to keep that barrier in place and, a few steps behind him, Jonathan, incarcerated in a barrier of his own, bending over himself, his young face a painful mask of suffering.
His name echoed in my mind and, even before I could form a concrete thought, I was there, right beside him, my feet touching the ground as I regained my Human weight.
The protection around him melted away, slowly and quietly before my presence, crumbling into small bright sparkles of light that disappeared into the night. I looked at him, practically kneeling beside me and stretched a hand to touch him, and was immediately lost in the surreal way my skin kept glowing. I still hadn’t noticed it, I mused as I looked down at myself, at how my entire body was covered by that strange glow, and I instantly decided I wouldn’t lose any more time on that. At least that light seemed to make me immune to the terrifying presence of the two Shedim fighting just a few steps away, for which I was truly thankful.
When I looked at Jonathan he was staring back at me, as if he’d just noticed my presence, and then his face seemed to come alight with an amazed expression of admiration.
I smiled at him, trying to reassure him, and he slowly took my inviting hand, allowing me to help him up. And then my eyes could also see it. See how, like me, he also glowed. But his light was incarcerated by numerous thin, dark lines, as if a net of darkness surrounded him, limiting and trapping his light. I wondered if that was what Alexander saw when he’d said that we glowed.
Jonathan seemed even more amazed to be able to easily stand up and I smiled proudly, knowing that, just as I’d wished, I’d been able to free him from the pain implicit in being Alexander’s Medium.
A blue and green electrical discharge crackled through the air, transforming night into day and crashing against the dome, leaving me deaf once more. My gaze turned towards the two shadows that moved so fast that I could hardly see them, and I noticed that, just like before, unlike Gabriel, Telane had dark wings sprouting out of her back, allowing her to move faster than him. Even so, the electrical discharges that periodically jumped from her white hands never seemed to reach her target, exploding against Alexander’s barrier. Her long coppery hair was like a trail of fire, burning behind her as she moved. And the bloody determination in her golden eyes was enough to make anyone aware of the danger of just standing close to her.
The air shrieked in a frightening sound and I felt Jonathan’s hand, still locked with mine, tremble. Alexander seemed to focus even harder, mumbling words under his breath, and then an enormous dark matter surrounded Telane, spiraling around her at a vertiginous speed.
I felt my stomach quiver in the first typical reaction I had, and forced myself to take a deep breath so I wouldn’t be dragged from that peaceful place that allowed me to keep my balance. I pushed down all Human emotions like fear or panic, emotions that I knew my Soul would never have, and tried to keep the inner harmony that I’d managed to reach.
Gabriel stopped his attack, pulling back with two huge jumps, and Jonathan stepped closer to me, trembling uncontrollably.
“The barrier will never hold.” I heard his hoarse voice, and his fear made the constantly still waters under my feet vibrate.
The command bubbled up inside me once more, before I could even consciously think about it, and then a terrible blast echoed all around us, plunging us into darkness.
Even before I could see or understand what had just happened, I felt a painful and violent impact, and only then realized that it had been the result of trying to contain that monstrous force. I almost fainted when I couldn’t breathe and pain coursed through my body, tearing it into pieces from the inside out, and I wondered if that was what Jonathan felt every time Alexander’s barrier was attacked.
I fought to raise my head, gasping for air, and warm hands supported me, helping me stand up.
“Mari! Are you all right?”
The urgency and preoccupation in his voice reached me as if coming from very far away and, when I noticed, there were small bright lights everywhere, and not only covering the barrier, but also surrounding Alexander and Gabriel.
“Mari!!” Lea’s voice erased my confusion and I saw a small boy running towards me. Alexander, just a few steps from me, was staring at me in a mix of pure astonishment and horror. And yet my gaze didn’t stop on any of them, as I prepared myself to face his anger, knowing that what I was doing would probably make him furious. I found him easily enough, standing not far from where I stood, his long dark hair completely drenched, his shirt sticking to his chest, probably from being under the rain before Alexander had raised his dome. I noticed he held his crescent moon spear and that his eyes were glowing with that crimson light. But the anger I’d readied myself to face as he looked at me, wasn’t there. And couldn’t help feeling kind of embarrassed when I noticed his dazed, almost mesmerized expression, as he kept staring at me.
My attention immediately turned to Telane, and the fury radiating from her left me tense. Without even making any sort of wish or request, voices invaded my head, hers sounding perceptibly clearer than the rest. I instinctively took a step back as I realized that the reason behind her anger was me, and felt Jonathan gently tug at my arm, although I couldn’t really hear what he was saying.
‘You! How’s this even possible? I must be wrong ... She can’t be Human! And if she’s not, then ...’
All I could do was take a sharp breath, as I understood that those were her thoughts that I was hearing, and that she was about to kill me.
The blast that echoed around us was even stronger than the one before and the shrieking sound of Alexander’s barrier breaking hurt my ears. I know I screamed, although my voice was lost somewhere, and I pulled Jonathan to me, hugging him, fearing my light wouldn’t be enough to protect him. I cringed and closed my eyes when a savage, cutting wind whipped at my face, roaring all around me, and I had to make use of all my strength so that I wouldn’t be dragged away by it.
The cold rain that fell in heavy drops drenched me immediately and, when I dared open my eyes again I was startled by the gleaming point of the shaky dagger standing there, just two fingers away from my forehead. The heavy pressure all around us almost pushed me away from that silent place, clouding my thoughts for a moment, and all I could see was that metallic point and a grotesque, massive dark shadow covering the world, as if I’d gone blind again.
Struggling against the fear that had started to take over again, I tried to regain my balance, to make sure I didn’t leave that quiet place, even though invisible chains kept pulling me down towards the darkness. I had to stay there, I thought, even as my eyes followed that dagger, and the white perfect, shaky hand that held it, followed by a marble arm until I reached a pair of golden eyes that burned incandescently as they stared hatefully at me. And then I saw it, the hand around her neck, a hand that I knew all too well, and I could finally see him, as if he’d just materialized from thin air. The darkness in front of me gained meaning and I knew I was looking at his back, that the black shadows that engulfed the world were really his wings of destruction. His presence was stronger than I’d ever felt before, more deadly and frightening, so cold and cruel that I had to struggle to keep standing and not be swatted by his intense rage.
I felt Jonathan being pulled away from my arms and looked back at Alexander who had stolen him from me, hugging him protectively, while reaching out his other hand towards me, encouraging me to take it. Lea was hiding behind his legs, his silver eyes wide with fear as he peered at us, looking just like any other scared child would. And I knew, just by looking at his dark, severe expression, that Alexander was about to take them away, somewhere safe, probably somewhere very far from there. In his mind Gabriel had become too dangerous, gone beyond the point where he would be able to control his rage and power, and there was nothing any of them could do.
And so I smiled, as if thanking him for his offer, and turned my gaze towards that massive shadow that just kept standing there, right before me, holding at arms length the threat that would have certainly stolen my life, if he hadn’t released his power that had allowed him to be faster than her.
This time, I consciously chose to listen to his thoughts, knowing I was once more borrowing the power Sealed inside the Circle around my neck, and all that reached me from either him or Telane were horrifying scattered images of death and blood.
I forced my shaky legs to move and took a step to the side, away from that death threat still pointed at my head, and Telane’s golden eyes flashed in frustration as she followed my every move, although he kept her completely still.
I took a few more steps and, hesitantly, stopped at Gabriel’s side, peering up at him, completely ignoring her presence. His stone, white face carved on that enraged expression was dripping water, just like mine, his eyes completely red, without a single hint of violet, locked on her in a silent and deadly threat.
Moving as slowly as he used to, I raised a hand and placed it on his outstretched arm, the same that persistently tried to choke Telane to death, knowing that were she Human her neck would have been broken in two a long time ago. The electrical shock that jumped at my fingers left my arm numb all the way up to the elbow, and his thoughts invaded my mind, much clearer than before, causing me pain and trying to drag me towards a torrent of madness.
My name echoed in his mind repeatedly, always associated with an abyss that went much farther and deeper than mere fear or terror. And yet, among the horrifying things that filled his mind, I found what I was looking for, the thought that would allow me to break through and reach his closed mind. I took a deep breath, focusing on the exact words I wanted to send him, trying to give him more than mere words, enveloping every one of them in my own feelings to make sure he knew that they were true.
“Not for me ... never for me. That’s not what I wish for!"
I felt him shudder and the muscles from his arm grew stiffer, almost like strained ropes.
“She tried to kill her! It’s the second time! There won’t be a third." I heard his voice in my head, harsh and dark, and deadly, and shook my head.
“No, Nyx ... Because you don’t really want to kill her. And she doesn’t want to kill you either. All she wants is for you to win this war ... and that’s something you’ll have to do, whether you want to or not. But she’s not an enemy you have to eliminate."
Although he remained motionless, his crimson eyes turned towards me and I couldn’t help shudder before that terrifying image. I was sure he did not see me when he looked at me like that and, for a split second, I wished I had accepted Alexander’s invitation and ran away from that place.
I quickly erased that thought and squeezed his stiff arm, as if that could help me keep my fear under control. I raised my other hand that wouldn’t stop shaking, and stood on the tip of my toes to reach his ice-like face.
“Release her,” I whispered and felt his arm shake. “Everything’s fine ... trust me ... and let her go,” I told him gently and wondered if it had been just my words, or some other power hidden inside the golden Circle. All I know is that his expression became somehow softer, as if someone had taken a heavy weight from him, his menacing eyes looking at me with an almost mesmerized expression, and I smiled, encouraging him to do as I said. As if all strength had abandoned him, his arm became limp and fell to his side, letting go of her, and Telane quickly stepped back, coughing and gasping for air as she clutched her hurt neck.
I held his face between my hands, making him turn his head towards me, making sure he looked only at me, and he unconsciously bent slightly so I could easily reach him, his drenched hair falling around his face. I smiled, making sure I didn’t turn my gaze away from his threatening eyes, and gently caressed his face.
“Everything’s fine,” I insisted and the pained expression that crossed his face made my heart hurt as well.
His crescent moon spear disappeared in a cloud of black ash, and his arms moved slowly to encircle me, barely touching me. I smiled again, still caressing his face, still facing him unwavering and, to my surprise, he bent one knee in an incredibly elegant movement, and knelt down in front of me, his black wings exploding in small dark sparkles that were quickly dragged away by the rain. The air became immediately lighter, the pressure gone, taking part of my own tension with it, and his trembling arms pulled me closer. I held my breath when he rested his head against my chest, his cold, wet hair making me shiver, and I pulled my arms around him, holding him there as his pain made the still waters inside me hum and vibrate gently.
Suddenly Telane’s presence filled the air, reminding me of her existence, and, not knowing how, everything else disappeared, leaving me cold and empty. I know I turned my head to look at her and it seemed it wasn’t my head at all. And, although I could easily feel her hatred and fury directed at me, in reality I couldn’t feel anything, as if her dark emotions simply passed through me. In the emptiness inside me there was only one thing, only one certainty; I was not going to allow her to take him away from me again! I was not going to give her a single part of him! Not his anger, not his fury, not his hatred, not his crimson eyes. Everything about him, even his darkest feelings, everything was mine!
Her thoughts reached me again, completely clear. She did not want to destroy him. She wanted to kill me. Because I was the only thing keeping him there. Because I held him prisoner of his own will, because I controlled him and made him weak and submissive, far from the Gabriel she knew and wanted. Her Gabriel was great, and powerful, and cruel and untouchable. He could easily destroy the whole world if he wanted, and he never felt remorse, or guilt, or pain. He was like a dark shadow majestically standing on top of a pile of death and destruction. And he would win that war for her! Seeing him kneeling like that, in front of a mere insignificant Human was beyond wrong, it was inadmissible!
And yes, I knew part of what she thought was right, especially how wrong it was that he would turn towards someone like me. But I also knew she didn’t know him at all! Or at least I wanted to believe she didn’t. Because her Gabriel would never even glance at me. My frail and insignificant existence wouldn’t mean anything to him. And even if she was right, and he really used to be that being, I’d never allow him to go back, even if it meant his death. He belonged to me! And I would never concede to a Gabriel that would walk by me without even glancing my way, no matter how selfish that would be.
Unable to feel fear I watched as Telane’s white hands were covered with green and blue sparkles and her intention to use them against me became clear in my head. I felt Gabriel’s arms squeeze me gently and he took a deep breath, regretting having to let go of me, regretting having to go back to fighting her, wishing he would have killed her long ago, so that I wouldn’t have to be there to see all that, to be placed in such a danger, to see his terrifying self as he fought. And yet, now that it’d come to this, he would protect me no matter the cost.
My whole being vibrated and I deeply despised that red-headed creature that made him feel like that; that was trying to take him from me. And the command echoed throughout my entire body, from a place much beyond any thought or desire.
The white lights that aimlessly filled the air after Alexander’s dome had been shattered to pieces, flew at high speed towards Telane, surrounding her and blinding her for a moment. She screamed, uselessly swatting the lights as if they were flies, and her fury exploded against the bright barrier that now surrounded her.
The effort needed to resist that shock was more intense than the previous one, and I felt as something inside me cracked and broke, driving me to the brink of madness. I heard screaming and only afterwards realized that it was my own voice I was hearing, and cold hands held me, as urgent, confusing voices surrounded me.
“Mariane! Mariane! Look at me! Look at me!!” His severe command echoed inside me and it was impossible not to obey. I opened my eyes and gasped for air, as if I’d been submerged in dark waters for eternities. The pain that washed over my body was very much real, my muscles burning and melting, and I clenched my teeth so I wouldn’t scream again.
I heard Alexander’s voice intoning strange words and Telane’s screams echoed savagely, filling the air.
“How can you be so stupid?” I heard his bitter whisper and only then noticed that the cold rain wasn’t the only thing wetting my face. Warm tears slid down my skin, blurring my vision, robbing the sight of his worried violet eyes from me.
“Izrail!” Alexander’s voice called out, urgently, and Gabriel placed a hand on my neck to make sure I looked up at him.
“Release her,” he commanded and I just shook my head, stubbornly, trying to bear the agonizing pain in silence. “Release her, Mariane! Sigweardiel can contain her now! Or are you going to tell me you want to die here?”
Somewhere inside me his dry, apparently unfeeling words shocked me. I’d never thought about dying! But dying wouldn’t be all that bad, right? At least I’d die in his arms, and I would die being helpful, that should be acceptable in terms of a brief and insignificant life like mine. But then, if I died, when I died, she would get free! And I couldn’t allow that. I would never let him fight her again! I would never let her steal him from me like that again! Make him look at me with those unseeing eyes! There was only one solution. Before I died, I would destroy her, I decided.
“Mariane!” His voice broke through my thoughts once again and his face leaned over mine, his dripping wet hair falling over my neck. His hand twitched in pain as he touched my face and was burned by my tears, but the pain in his eyes was so much darker that my mind went suddenly completely blank. “You cannot leave me. I won’t allow it,” he whispered and his voice shook because, in the end, he knew the truth; that if I died there there was nothing else he could do, and that I’d be forever out of his reach.
Apparently, his pain was more than I could bear, and that unfeeling part of me recoiled and returned to the still waters from where she’d emerged, allowing my more Human, compassionate self to regain control of my own thoughts and decisions, making his pain even harder to bear.
Without even thinking about it, the white lights shot through the air once again, crashing against me, disappearing under my skin, even though I couldn’t feel a single thing. And then I was whole again, and was shivering again, and was cold, and tired, and my Human, normal self again. His arms were around me in one second, holding me carefully against his cold, wet body, and I took a deep breath.
“Everything’s fine. I’m fine,” I managed to mutter even though my mind was muddled about a lot of things, and he let go of me just enough so he could look at me, his expression hard and severe.
“No, it’s not! Everything is not fine at all!” he contested angrily, but then sighed. “But you’re freezing and soaking wet, and you need to rest, so we’ll talk afterwards,” he decided in a softer, gentler tone, and I looked around me, trying to place myself.
Alexander was still standing under the pouring rain, eyes closed as if he’d fallen asleep in that position. And Lea and Jonathan were both looking at me with apprehensive expressions. But there was no sign of Telane.
“Where is she?” I asked, my voice tearing at my sore vocal cords, and he placed a nervous kiss on my temple, as if he needed to do it to make sure I was really there, alive, between his arms.
“You don’t have to worry about her. Sigweardiel has her locked up in another dimension.”
“What are you going to do with her?” I asked, fearing his answer, and the endless horrifying images I’d seen in his thoughts came back to my mind.
“Don’t worry about her!” he insisted, frowning, reminding me of how he used to refuse to answer my questions, always telling me it was nothing I should concern myself with, and I opened my mouth to contest. “Mariane! Will you, for once, just do what I tell you?” He cut me off before I could argue, and a warm hand held my arm gently and pulled me up. I was shocked at how easily he let go of me, and the dizziness that made the world flash and turn around me left me nauseated. Someone scooped me up from the ground and I whined under my breath, feeling sick. His cold hand on my forehead startled me.
“I won’t take long, I promise,” he told me gently and I clenched my teeth when his violet eyes suddenly disappeared, and the world around me dissolved into dark spirals that threatened to swallow me.
I only felt a little bit better when I was finally placed on a clearly unmoving surface that offered me some measure of safety, and still I had to take a deep breath to keep my stomach in its place.
“Mari? Are you okay?”
“Lea,” I mumbled when I finally recognized him and his worried expression opened up to a bright smile. Even though he was the big Lea now, his smile hadn’t changed, I mused, my mind still foggy.
“We’re home,” he informed me and I looked around just to make sure. He was right. I was back in my room, sitting on my bed. “You should get out of those wet clothes,” he suggested and then I was wide awake, and all that had just happened came back to me, flooding my tired mind.
“What about Gabriel?” I asked urgently and he smiled again, trying to appease me.
“Master is fine. He’ll be back in a second. Just trust him a little,” he added and my temples ached painfully. “Want me to help you?” I shook my head. “Okay, then. Just get out of those clothes. I’ll go and draw you a bath. You need to warm yourself or you’ll get sick. Okay?” The idea of sinking my freezing body in a pool of hot water sounded perfect.
“Thank you,” I replied in my broken voice and he smiled, much happier.
“I’ll be right back.” He turned to leave and I heard his small bell ringing as he went down the stairs, that clear sound making me feel more relaxed.