Second Book of the Darkness Trilogy
by K Griffin © 1998
"The brighter the light, the
darker the shadows"
extract from the "Tenets of
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
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,
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
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.
Megren, "If he was dead, I would not have been able to return, but her actions denied
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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