Chapter 13 - Reunion
- Nightfall: Reunion - Day 10: 4:00am
I navigated the tunnels deep within the hillside daily, so why did they now seem so maze-like? I was constantly making wrong turns and losing my way. I could not focus. All I could think about was Els, being skinned alive and made into trophies for those monsters, Jyre, being devoured by zombies, and Lytha being whipped, burned, and finally disemboweled by the Hammerites. I could have protected Els, but I did not. I could have gone after Jyre, but I did not. I could have ordered Lytha’s release, but I did not. I am not the type of person who dwells on regret, but sometimes I make an exception. This was one of them. It was an all too familiar tragedy. My mind kept going back to the past, back to my old life, now long gone. This is not the first time someone suffered badly for my inaction, and now that memory sprung to life once more.
"M’lord?" the woman’s words echoed in my mind.
"Yes?" I had said in reply, not shifting my gaze from my desk to the speaker.
"My brother… I… he…. He has decided to go. He left several minutes ago." Her voice was shaking.
All I did was nod, letting her know that I heard.
"M’lord… I fear for his life... I could not convince him to change his mind... " She paused, I could hear the intense fear in her voice. I finally turned around to look at her. I could see in her eyes that she had been crying. "Please…. Daneel, stop him, save him. Please..."
All I did was shake my head. "The decision was his. It is not my place to dictate to him what he can and cannot do. His choices are his own. I respect that. You should too. If he so chooses to go off on this quest, then he shall suffer the consequences. He is a man, and under no one’s rule but his own. It is not my job, nor yours, to protect him from his own decisions."
I remember the words well, as if I had spoken them yesterday.
The memory faded after that. I remember hearing, several days later, that his broken body had been found, half eaten by the creatures he set out to slay. His sister disappeared after that. Months latter, her corpse was found, a dagger thrust into her chest by her own hand. We had not been terribly close, I was not close to anyone in those days, but we were friends. I blamed myself. I never forgave myself. I could have stopped him. He would not have died and she would not have killer herself out of grief. It was my fault. I could have done something. I didn’t. I didn’t get involved. It happened again. I didn’t get involved. If I had, things would have been different. I could have easily saved them both. I didn’t. Jyre, Els, and Lytha were dead. I blamed myself. It was my fault…
- Jyre: Reunion - Day 10: 4:00am
The parchment fell from my numb fingers. I stared at nothing as I shook my head in denial. He'd sent Els away. The captain had barely been coherent and Nightfall had sent him away! Told him to go into the forbidden section without a second thought! Els had practically been ordered to his death.
The anger and hurt that had been trapped inside me these last few days rose and started to bubble. I got up and ran. I didn’t know where I was going, and I didn’t care. I just ran. I entered a dark room and suddenly there he was, Master Nightfall. Pain and exhaustion were forgotten, replaced by thoughtless fury. I stood and drew my dagger from my belt, raised it above my head...
I didn’t even see it coming. Another tribute to my carelessness. A dark shape lunged at me. All I felt was a sharp cold pain in my chest. It lunged again. I staggered backwards. If it had been under any other circumstances my instincts would have reacted. I would have defended and counterattacked. But I didn’t. I didn’t know why I just stood there. I just stood there as this shape I could not even see attacked me. I couldn’t see it because I didn’t even look. My mind was too filled with regret and anger at myself. The only difference was now my body was in as much pain as my mind. Suddenly the creature stopped, and took a step backwards. I could see that it was quivering. With great difficulty, I turned my head and focused my eyes on the creature.
It was Jyre….
I let the dagger drop. My whole body shuddered. His blood was everywhere! It covered my hands like gloves. I looked up at him, at his torn and tattered clothes and bloody wounds. I saw the pain that filled his eyes. My heart sank as my mind finally accepted what I had done. His eyes followed my own to the blood covered stones and he shrugged. It was almost as if he had expected it. I swallowed back the lump of fear in my throat and tried to say something. Words wouldn't come. The sigh that escaped his lips then was filled with weariness. Tears slipped down my cheeks. I had killed him...
I looked down at myself. Seven, maybe eight stabs across my ribs and stomach. I was no longer able to stand. I had lost too much blood. I fell to the floor, and just rested. Jyre was alive. She had not died. She made it out by herself. I did not need to send Els after her. I understood. She blamed me for Els’s death. She was mostly right. I could have saved him. I should have protected him. I failed her. I lay there and rested.
She started to cry.
Slowly, I recollected my wits. The wounds were not that deep, but they were enough to make me bleed. I pushed my body upwards. I began to lose consciousness as I lifted my head, but I fought against it. I pushed myself up to a sitting position. She had her face buried in her hands, weeping. I scooped up some of the blood that was flowing down my tunic with my gloved hand.
Blood trickled through his fingers, pooling in his lap. My blood turned to ice as I watched. Why wasn't he dead? When he looked up at me his face was calm and peaceful. There was no fear there, just acceptance. I tried to back away.
"You're right." I could barely hear his words. Blood trickled out the side of his mouth and down his chin. "It is my fault..."
"W-what is…?" was all she could say.
I closed my eyes. So little energy was left. I could no longer keep my head up. I rested my face against my bloody palm. The smell of my own blood filled my lungs. It was strangely soothing. "I got careless," I said, lifting my head slightly so I could speak. I looked at her through my fingers. No reaction came. "And unnecessary deaths resulted."
She spoke suddenly, almost a whisper, "Els…"
My legs buckled and I collapsed into the floor. My whole body was going numb after its mistreatment over the last few days. I forced myself to stay alert. To listen. I felt terrible. He would die because of me! I had acted without thought, without giving him a chance to explain! And now he sat confessing to me even as his life trickled away between his fingers. I didn't want this!
"And Lytha too..."
"But; you don’t know about Lytha…" I sighed again. I grew dizzy. As much as I fought the darkness, I knew I could not remain conscious for long. I was sitting in a pool. No. I cannot sit in a pool of my own blood. I must stand. I fought to stand up. "The Hammers... I thought I could keep them under my thumb... I am so wrong..."
He was on his feet again, towering over me. His desire to live astounded me. I wanted to help him but knew not how. If only I had listened more to my teachers. If only I had listened more to him! If only...
I stood. I had a job to do. I focused my mind on the task at hand. I felt that if I focused hard enough, I would be able to continue in spite of my wounds. I could see the fear in her eyes. "There is still time... I know what she's doing... Little else matters anymore... I m-must GO...." I told her, knowing that she knew nothing of what was happening.
At that I fell. I dropped to my knees. I could go no further. My eyes closed slowly.
He wasn't moving, just kneeling in front of me, eyes closed and features frozen. I forced myself to my feet, fighting the growing weariness that now pulled at my eyelids. I gave his shoulder a shove, praying for a reaction but knowing there would be none. His body rocked slightly and than he was still. I watched him but saw no sign of life. He no longer even breathed.
Panic gripped me. I couldn't let him die! Not like this. Not at my hands! He wasn't allowed to die! I ripped my injured arm free from its binding and grabbed him with both hands, shaking him. Don't ask me what I hoped to achieve. I didn't know myself.
Pain lashed through my injured shoulder. White lances of agony drove through my body. The room spun around me, shimmering. My vision began to dim. Blackness took me.
The darkness never came. Instead there was light.
I was no longer in the storeroom. I knew not where I was, yet I felt as if I had been here before, many times. I heard a voice in my mind. "Daneel?"
I saw her smiling at me. It was not Jyre. I knew the face immediately. I opened my mouth to speak to her. She placed her finger over my lips. She shook her head, smiling.
"You know you never need to thank me. You saved my soul, and thus I shall forever repay you." I felt the life come back into me slowly. The strength. She smiled and kissed my lips. "I wish I could help you on your task ahead. Know that I am with you though, always."
I smiled and nodded, unable to speak. I knew it was terribly difficult for her to do this from so far away. She was hurting herself to save me. I wanted to tell her to stop, but I couldn’t speak. She knew that this may be the last chance she had to help me before I went into the labyrinth. She had told me before that there was great evil there. She could not penetrate it. This would be the last time I could see her, until I returned.
Slowly the light dimmed, and I opened my eyes. I was back in the storeroom. I saw Jyre collapsed on the floor.
The sound of his voice brought me back. I opened my eyes to find myself staring into his face. He looked worried.
"Jyre, I'm sorry. Please forgive my blindness."
His voice was soft and gentle, so unlike the way he spoke before. And he looked so real. I lifted my hand to brush his cheek. It brushed against cool flesh. He smiled at me. I sank away again, too ashamed to fight the weariness that gripped me any longer.
I paused, suddenly remembering something. It seemed so long ago, yet not even a minute had passed. On the floor, on my tunic, on my hands, on her dagger, the blood was gone. I inspected my chest through the holes in my shirt. Nothing. I looked up slightly, and whispered a thank you. I looked back down at Jyre. She was breathing. Her shoulder looked sharply dislocated. If I worked quickly I could set it while she was still unconscious.
I felt something tug at me, pulling me from the depths that I had sunk to. I didn't want to rise. For that would mean facing what I had done. I would rather die than live knowing I had killed him.
Her arm was relocated, but was still badly swollen. I knew one way to help, but there was something I had to do first. I glanced around the room, my eyes searching for any soft object. A pillow, cushion, or towel would do. Finally I saw something: my cloak. I quickly unfastened it from my neck and laid it on the floor next to her. It was easily twice as large as she was. The velvet interior would be much better to rest on than this hard stone floor.
Carefully, I lifted her small body from the floor, and set it down on the cloak. I cringed as she groaned, and her head hit the fabric with a thud. This would not do at all. Forgetting that there was nothing to be found, I glanced around the room once more. The idea came to me, and I pulled my hat off. I took off my gloves and stuffed them into the hat, and placed the package under her head. She shifted around a little, and then her body seemed to relax. It was most likely a good deal more comfortable than her bed at home. I looked at her face. She seemed at peace now. Her face was marred by dirt mixed with blood and sweat. I pushed a few strands of hair away from her closed eye.
An inspiration came to me. I closed my eyes and concentrated. "Please, help her as well." My lips moved, yet no sound came out. "Please." As if guided by the force that saved me, my hand went to her shoulder. "Thank you again," I whispered. I held my hand there, and I could feel the magical energy of my savior passing through me into her. Color returned to her face. I closed my eyes and felt myself pushing slowly harder. I found myself leaning over her. I could feel her begin to breathe more rapidly. My brow furrowed, as I trusted my guide, without understanding.
Whatever it was that called me was persistent. It granted me no peace. Slowly, against my will I rose again from those quiet depths and returned to my mind. Opening my eyes I saw him waiting for me. I almost did not recognize him with his hat off. I was so used to his face being in shadow. His face was narrow but not angular, and his skin a warm tan. He had a short beard, dark copper in color, but black in the center and around the edges. His eyes were closed, with an expression of deep concentration. "What...?"
I opened my eyes as I felt her stir, and heard her voice. I spoke the first thing on my mind. "How do you feel?"
"Tired; but…." She looked at me, slightly puzzled. She looked at her arm, and then back to me. "Better."
As I answered his question he seemed to become more real. More alive! He seemed so concerned. It made no sense. I had killed him! "You; be dead...." I meant it as an observation but he took it as a question and gave a slight nod.
"I almost died."
"What; did you do?" She didn’t need to ask. I knew she was bewildered.
"I did nothing." I tried to shake the look of concern off my face, but it would not budge. "The one who saved me, she worked through me. She saved me, and then helped me save you." I could tell she didn’t really care, even if she could understand. "She wouldn’t let me die. She would never let me die. She is my – " I stopped, deciding against telling her that.
I felt her hand grip my arm. She uttered a word. "Sorry."
I took her hand off my arm, and placed it in mine. "Please, forgive me Jyre."
Forgive him? The question brought tears to me eyes. He wanted me to forgive him? I was the one who had tried to kill him without first hearing his words. I was the one who had refused to listen. "I..." I shook my head. How could I blame him for anything? He wasn't Els's protector, any more than he was mine. If he helped every sick man he came across he would never have any time for anything else. As for the Hammers, had he ever had any choice? "Nothing… to forgive..."
He smiled at me and lifted his head. "Thank you." I barely heard the soft whisper.
Suddenly remembering why I had come, I reached into my pocket and took out the scrap of paper. "Found it... in forbidden district," I explained. "Monster came."
He took it from me and began to read.
The paper was vellum, the material used to make spell scrolls. I examined it. My mind cleared as I concentrated. Several things struck me as odd right away. For one, it was written in English. That in itself was odd. The thing that struck me as terribly peculiar was the fact that the scroll did not vanish when she cast it! I realized I had been talking to myself, and then cleared my throat. I reread the words, and recognized it as an odd variant of the "summon monster" scroll, yet much, much more. I felt like I had found something extremely valuable.
He mumbled something about spells and vanishing. The words were not meant for my ears, so low were they spoken. He turned to me again and he had what I can only describe as a scholar's look on his face. "Tell me of this monster." Then his face softened. "No, you must rest. May I keep this?" he asked, holding up the scrap of paper. I nodded, glad to be rid of the cursed thing. He certainly seemed to understand its purpose better than I ever it would. "Thank you." He put it away. "Where are you injured? Your shoulder? Where else?"
"My ankle, hard to walk. And cuts. Many cuts." I struggled to sit up, meaning to show him but he held me down.
"No, please, lie there. I shall be back very soon."
I sighed and closed my eyes. I needed to sleep
I ran into an adjacent store-room. I quickly found what I needed: a heath potion, a holy water vial, a bowl, and a fire arrowhead. I quickly went back to her, and found her slumbering lightly.
"Here’s a little known trick I picked up a few years back," I said to her, though I suspected she wouldn’t hear.
I opened my eyes again at the sound of his voice. He was sitting beside me, a bowl on the ground in front of him. I watched in confusion as he mixed holy water with a few drops of a healing potion. I had no idea what he planned. I waited, feeling safe in his care.
The mixture reacted correctly, and all that was needed was to apply heat. I took the fire crystal, and dipped it into the clear liquid. It reacted quickly, turning a deep green color. I took the cloth and dipped it into the fluid, and then applied the cloth to her shoulder. She shuddered for a second, for the liquid was still quite hot, as it needed to be. I then took the cloth, reapplied the liquid to it, and placed it on her lacerated ankle, and then the cuts on her legs, arms, face, and anywhere else I could access without moving her and disturbing her. The enchantress had healed her spirit and her mind, and this liquid would heal her body. "How is that now?"
Whatever it was he had done it worked; where there had been pain there was now only numbness. I closed my eyes and sighed in response to a question I barely heard. I felt him wrap his cloak around me like a blanket then his arms slipped under my body and he lifted me from the floor. I snuggled up against him and let my mind drift. It was the first time I had truly felt safe in weeks.
I took her upstairs to the guest chamber and laid her down on the queen-sized bed. I was about to turn out the lantern and leave her to rest, but then I paused, and looked at her.
She was much younger than I had first deduced. Laying there, at peace, she looked no more than fourteen or fifteen. Her hair was very short and ragged dark brown, almost black . It most likely helped her pass off as a boy when she needed to. I noted earlier that she had greeny-grey eyes, surprisingly intense – probably her most noticeable feature. Her face was rather plain, oval in shape, lightly tanned. She shifted around slightly curling into a ball, and then spread out.
I smiled, satisfied that I had finally done some good in this big mess. I turned out the lantern, and then dashed back to the cellar. I was surprised to see that only five minutes had passed.