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The Chrysalis Emerges

The Second Book of the Darkness Trilogy

by K Griffin 1998

Chapter 14

"The brighter the light, the darker the shadows"
extract from the "Tenets of Darkness"

Chrys felt as though she was floating outside her body while the black drawbridge carried her across the abyss. The artificial calm that descended over her was so strong that she was merely an observer watching the events unfold. Her body was part of the events, but not her mind. She was aware enough, for her mind to wonder why she wasn't afraid that the black bridge would suddenly disappear. If it did, she would plunge to the floor of the canyon far below. She had heard Ryrf's startled exclamation and warning, but it was as though the words were coming to her from a different time and place. They were echoes from a past, that was no longer relevant.

The memories of the danger she had felt flowing from this place came rushing back to her. Without knowing why, Chrys suddenly realised that it was important to be whole when she entered this place. Her mind gently sorted the silver strands which surrounded her and as some order was imposed, the strands became shorter and shorter, drawing her mind back to her waiting body. Chrys completed the task just as the drawbridge reached the gate and to her surprise, the gate formed no physical barrier. Passing through the gate was like walking under a waterfall of sand. She felt the rasping particles brush past her and was cleansed of all lingering tendrils of the silver strands. Roughly and efficiently, they were scoured from her body. A shiver ran down her spine as she realised how close she had come to having her body pass straight through the gate, without her mind.

Once inside the gate, the blackness was complete. It settled around her like a living thing, blanketing all noise and light. There was a chill in the darkness that crept past her warm cloak. Chrys fumbled through the pockets of her girdle, feeling a desperate need to make a light and to banish this darkness. Her movements lacked their usual grace and she realised with dismay that she was giving in to the rising tide of panic that was threatening to swamp her. She backed up slowly, only to find that from this side, the gate was a solid barrier. She was trapped.

Her efforts to make a flame were futile. She could tell that a flame leaped into life, but it cast no light. All she succeeded in doing was burning her fingers in a desperate attempt to see if the flame existed. The moment of heat and pain, focused her mind on her predicament. With a conscious effort, she slowed her breathing, searching for enough strength to take a step into the unknown. The black hard gate was like an anchor to the real world and to leave it required more courage than she felt she had. "Perhaps it ends, two steps inside the gate" she told herself, trying to build up the courage to move. "And perhaps it goes on forever", her fear shot back at her. One thought kept running through her mind. It was a fear that immobilised her. It was a fear that she'd be lost forever until whatever had summoned her, came for her.

No matter how hard she peered around her, Chrys could not discern anything in the gloom. She could feel eyes watching her every movement. Summoning what bravado she could find, she called out "Your invitation was accepted". Perhaps she imagined it, but for a moment she thought she heard a laugh. The blanket of darkness rippled around her a little as though the effects of the silent laughter were rolling through it. Chrys willed herself to act. She was afraid that she would succumb totally to the message of cold fear that the darkness carried. She knelt to feel the ground around her. As she had suspected, there was nothing but cold earth. The bridge was gone, now that it had served its purpose.

Chrys had expected to feel hard packed dirt beneath her fingers or even cold stone flags. Instead, the dust beneath her hands felt like the red dust she'd seen on the other side of the abyss. Chrys picked up a handful of the dust and allowed it to trickle through her fingers. She could smell the dry dust she was stirring up and tiny particles tickled her nose. A golden glow leapt into life, sparkling from each particle of dust. The glow illuminated the scene for a moment, then died. A thrill of horror ran through her. That moment of light had revealed the fate of some other visitors. They had sat here as well, afraid to leave the false sanctuary of the known and they had paid the price for their inaction. It must have been a sad and lonely death, alone and afraid. There was no sign of any violence and the skeletons lay complete and undisturbed. It was a sobering message that Chrys was determined to heed.

Chrys sent up silent thanks for the moment of golden light. She managed to smile and murmured softly "Lady, you help me, even here."

This time she was sure she heard the laugh. A deep voice followed the laughter saying bitterly "Here? Never. She locked me in, but that also locks her out."

Chrys ignored the comment. If he was an enemy, she was not yet ready to face him. If he was a friend, then he would eventually show himself. Either way, she could see no point in revealing her vulnerability at this stage. She stood slowly and edged sideways, sliding each foot carefully in the dust, testing the ground as she moved. Her hands reached out, searching for clues as to what surrounded her. She held in reserve the thought that she could light the scene with the red dust. Perhaps if she was blinded by the darkness, then others here were blinded as well. Her probing hands brushed something cold and hard. Even that fleeting touch sent shock waves through her. She'd found the source of the blackness. It was the walls surrounding the castle that blanketed everything so completely. Walls cast shadows, but these walls cast more than that.

Yang'Grir granted healing with its pure green aura. She'd not been afraid to feel that power flow through her body. The Blood Plains had allowed her to channel the red power of the blood, but her compassion for the trapped souls had allowed her to maintain a balance in channelling that anger. These walls were something different. They were black and the blackness was a power. It was a power that she recoiled from. It was death. It was the antithesis of the silver net she'd encountered on the Blood Plains. It was empty and cold and hungry, and she feared to let it use her. She stepped back from the wall and realised that a hint of golden glow now lit the entire courtyard. Ryrf's words echoed in her mind "Knowledge is power, Chrys. Is it so surprising that the golden strands are knowledge?" She smiled to herself as understanding dawned. There was light in everything, if she could just open herself enough.

For a moment, Chrys forgot the watcher. She forgot to conceal her newly discovered talent and gazed in wonder at the scene now revealed before her eyes. The castle was beautiful when revealed in its full glory. Intricate lace work had been worked in both stone and iron to soften every hard edge. Instead of the square hard fortress she'd first imagined, a fairy tale castle of light and grace rose from the centre of the courtyard. No movement disturbed the tableau.

Skirting the inside edge of the black wall were carved flagstones. The stones branched off into crisscrossing paths that filled the barren courtyard. The paths were not designed for patrolling sentries. They were an invitation to walk and explore. Chrys could see the remnants of garden beds and dead trunks of trees. She could imagine a time when the trees' spreading canopies had cast restful shade over the stone benches placed beneath them.

Chrys bent to examine the carvings on the flagstones. She traced her finger along entwined circles. A strange feeling of kinship washed over her as she stared at the circles. The symbol was the same as her own hidden tattoo.  It was the symbol that Skye had hated so vehemently. Chrys could feel the barrier between herself and her memories, crumbling. "Not now," she told herself vehemently. She couldn't risk exploring the past yet. She stood and let her eye follow the paths.

The paths all eventually lead back towards the castle. They finished at the bottom of sweeping white steps which lead up to double doors. As she gazed up towards two golden doors, they swung open. Chrys chuckled softly to herself and decided that the invitation must still be open. She slowly made her way over to the doors.

Her long cloak swished around her as she climbed the steps. Chrys realised she was clutching it tightly around her as though to hide beneath its comforting shadows. She paused in the doorway and again surveyed her surroundings. She could still feel the blanket of darkness surrounding her, but it seemed to be always on the periphery of her vision. Inside the doorway was an imposing entrance hall. A marble mosaic filled the centre of the floor and immediately above it, hung the remnants of a crystal chandelier. The red dust blanketed everything and each movement Chrys made caused swirls of the dust to rise into the air. There were no other footprints disturbing the even covering on the floor of the entrance hall. Glancing sideways, Chrys saw two unblinking eyes staring at her. She froze, then realised that the massive misshapen beast that guarded the door, was a statue. She marvelled at the skill of the sculptor.

Several doors lead off the entrance hall, but only one was open. Chrys smiled to herself ruefully and reminded herself that she was here by invitation. Exploring might offend her host. "A guest." she muttered to herself, then smiled. " A guest" she repeated and turned as though looking for the absent butler. She could play this role, she decided and gave a loud exasperated sigh. If there was no-one to take her cloak, she would wear it, but she would not hide under it. Today she was not the child-waif. Today, she was the great lady. She let her hood fall back and flipped the cloak back across her shoulder. The vibrant blue of her dress shone in this setting, and the girdle gleamed. Her hand rested for a moment against the ornate silver dagger and she was surprised to find that it felt cold and alien today. Silver did not seem to belong in this castle. Steeling herself to face the unknown, she made her way across the hallway and stopped in the open doorway.

If this had once been a drawing room, then it was a long time ago. The furniture was incongruous and belied the grace and beauty she'd seen so far. Its state of disrepair matched the abandoned and dead garden outside. Upturned chairs littered the room. There was no clear path across to the one upright chair that faced the french-doors. She'd not noticed them from the outside, but even from here she could see that they overlooked the dead garden she'd explored earlier. Chrys began to pick her way across the room, edging past the mounded obstacles. She stopped when the deep voice broke the silence and said "So you still have the ShadowSight, my Lady".

She froze, not because the voice had spoken, but because it had spoken from close behind her. She turned slowly to face the speaker. She'd failed to notice the alcoves tucked along the rear wall. Here, finally was the grace and style she'd expected to see. A plush chaise lounge was tucked behind the door and reclining languidly along its length was a man. Her heart skipped a beat in half recognition, but if she knew him, it was in her forgotten past.

She dropped into a deep and graceful curtsey to preserve the formality of the meeting. She looked up to find his eyes fixed on her face. Unblinking, tiger's eyes held her gaze and he spoke again, "No answer, my Lady? You never used to be lost for words."

He was beautiful in the way that the great cats are beautiful. He was languid flowing grace and coiled power all in one. He was lithe and fit and young, yet his eyes were incredibly old and weary. His hair was black and caught back from his face. A hint of a beard, defined his jawline and his mouth was framed by a short, manicured moustache. It was hard to tell whether it was pain or strain that had caused the lines to form around his eyes. His clothing was black but Chrys couldn't bring herself to inspect his body further. She closed her eyes for a moment as strange flashes of memory, danced at the edge of her awareness.

The words came out slowly of their own volition. Chrys had no idea why she was so sure, but she knew she was right. "You're Megren," she said softly.

He nodded and said "and still as trapped as ever, Chrysana."

Again she had no idea how she knew, but again she was sure she was right as she answered him "Chrysana is dead, my Lord. I am Chrys."

The lines around his eyes deepened and Chrys decided that they had been etched by pain after all. Strangely, she could not feel his pain. She could not sense him at all. He was closed to her. She remembered the undisturbed dust in the entrance hall and wondered whether he was really here at all.

Even as the thought crossed her mind, he stood and moved towards her. An icy-cold finger trailed down her cheek as he slowly circled her. His intense scrutiny made her feel like a slave on the auction block. She was determined not to show the fear that was lying like a stone in the pit of her stomach so she met his gaze squarely and asked "Why did you bring me here, my Lord?"

This being was older than recorded history. His actions had created the world they now knew. Chrys found it hard to think of him as a creator though. The cold stroking motions on her cheek, broke her resolve. She edged away from him nervously. He seemed amused at her uncertainty and laughed as he answered "A whim. I didn't really expect you to get past the seals around this place. No-one with any power ever has before. By now, your body should have been a delightful toy for me and your essence should be in screaming agony, dying in the shadow realms." He glided forward and added "my Lady, you'd make a delightful toy. It would be an exquisite irony."

An intuition told her that he was merely toying with her out of boredom. "Keep him talking. Keep him amused." she told herself firmly. Chrys made her way over to the window and stared at the garden. Her eyes seemed drawn to the sad little piles of bones and belongings. "Do you watch them die?" she asked softly. Even as she spoke the words, she was kicking herself for broaching such a dangerous subject.

She quickly looked at him to gauge his reaction to the foolish question. He shrugged his shoulders as though to dismiss the deaths as unimportant. He said "Most died before I made my way back here. Some I've watched." He smiled as he added "You, I would have watched." For the first time she felt an emotion from him. It was an empty aching hunger.

Chrys was puzzled by his amiable, reassuring demeanour. Megren Dar'Almyrra had been the First Lord of the Council of Arcana. He had tasted power, wielded it and been consumed by it. He'd admitted that he'd planned to use her and watch her die, yet he'd not harmed her. A suspicion grew in her that he could not harm her. Chrys closed her eyes and tried to focus beyond that hunger. She tried to discover the essence of this being, but his hunger was like a bottomless pit that drew her ever deeper. Even as she scrambled back from the point of no return, his voice spoke softly in her ear "Some things, its better not to know". She whirled around to find that he now stood behind her. He appeared to be staring out the window, but his eyes were glazed and unseeing.

Without changing his focus or breaking his trance-like state, he spoke. It was as though a prophecy was being proclaimed. She wasn't sure that he was speaking to her and she had to strain to hear his soft words. He said "The balance is in your hands, child of the light. The darkness was mine. It was my life and my destruction, but it is also the doom that hangs over the lands. Helena severed it, to trap me. Her actions left a void and a vulnerability that will destroy the lands. You are the key that can stop the creeping doom."

Chrys saw the awareness creep back into his eyes. He blinked slowly and she saw the pain return. He turned as though to leave, muttering "She was a fool."

Chrys was stunned by his words. Helena was the legend of goodness that this world was built around. It was Helena who had restored hope during the Time of the Cataclysm. Chrys retorted "She beat you."

Megren turned and for a moment, Chrys saw Lord Dar'Almyrra in all his power and arrogance. "She was a fool" he repeated. His tone was bitter and angry as he continued, "She rejected the black powers without ever understanding them and meddled where she should not have. She cast me from the shadow plains in to the halls of the dead. She encased my totem spirit in stone and gave life to the black walls. She locked death inside these walls, but prevented it from happening. The beast was trapped here inside its stone casing. I could not release it from its bondage. She corrupted the black magic by her actions."

Chrys was confused by his tirade. One thing she did grasp. "The beast at the door?" she queried. "The beast is not a statue? Is it dead?" she asked.

"No" said Megren, "If he was dead, I would not have been able to return, but her actions denied us both the peace of death.  Some might say that it is a just outcome, but its not the worst of her deeds."  He looked at Chrys.  Her doubts about this story must have been obvious, because he abruptly turned and strode to the door.  It might have been a taunt, or or it might have been a challenge, but he didn't look back to see if she followed.  His words as he left the room seemed to linger and echo, "There is worse, come and view the handiwork of your High Cleric of the Silver Path, Helena."  Chrys suspected his motives and hesitated to follow.  One glance out the window though, reminded her of her predicament.  She regretted leaving Ryrf, but it was too late for such regrets.  She followed Megren.

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Copyright  2005 Elusive Dreams Mud. All rights reserved.
For comments or questions, email Klah.
Last updated: May 25, 2005.