Deep in the Dark
by Addie & Rameses
Introduction & Disclaimer
Credits & Acknowledgments:
To Storm, for letting us borrow her magnificent characters and making us learn new facets to their personalities.
And to my dearest friends who gave me much encouragement: Athena, my darling sis, who was so patient with me and let me have the fantastic honor of writing with her. *You’re a gem, love*
And to Mischa, the great connoisseur, whose keen-eyed editing called my attention to so many howlers and squiggles; and made this story come alive at Forever.
Characters: A Traveller, Calanthe, Pellaz, Caeru
Ratings: N/C 17 (Adult)
All items contained on these pages are non-profit amateur fiction. The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire and all characters named in those books are the copyright of Storm Constantine and her publishers. No infringement on the copyrights are intended.
Deep in the Dark
Part 1 (Rameses)
He was dying.
There was no question of it. He knew it. He could feel it.
This was his life’s climax? To die in the arid wilderness with the colossal range of mountains about him as his pallbearers or rather pyre bearers? They stared down silently at him, against the still, blazing sun, casting monolithic triangular shapes. In order they stood, like sentry soldiers, lifeless yet erringly watchful. The mountains and the rest of Mother Nature waiting to eventually reclaim his wretched corpse. What position would his bones have as the sand-laden winds engulfed them? Would they be in this slightly propped up position he was presently in or in a tangled mass of indistinguishable bones – assuming he could persuade one of the boulders above to came crashing down on his body first? That thought made him smile and as he made to give that smile a voice, he was wracked by another fit of coughing that hacked at his insides and left him utterly breathless. He spat a blob of greenish phlegm swirling with clotted blood and wheezed raggedly, licking his chaffed, wounded lips with a dry blistered tongue. He stared dully at the splat of slime, laughter spent. He would reconsider much more carefully before attempting another bout of mirth.
There was nothing else to stare at, so he continued to stare at the vile mucus, which was already beginning to shrivel up on the scorching rocks beside him. If he stared at the open plains, they would only tantalize him with phantoms of paradise. He’d seen enough mirages for a lifetime.
After a while he felt the need to change position. He shut his eyes in preparation for the effort. Not that it helped anyway because the sun still cast a reddish tinge inside his eyelids. He clenched his jaw as he made to roll onto his side. His shattered lower right limb screamed in painful protest and he screamed with it. His whole body seared with barely endurable pain. It was useless so he gave up the task.
Yesterday, he would have been able to shift whenever he became too uncomfortable from either the sharp, jutting rocks prodding one side of his entire frame or the merciless sun that slowly roasted his skin but now, he couldn’t be bothered. Pain from the leg was another luxury entirely. At first, he had tried inflicting wounds on his arms with a jagged rock in order to relocate the excruciating pain coming from his leg, a trick he had learnt decades ago, but it was useless. The pain would not budge.
That morning at the first splash of dawn, he had awoken from his feverish sleep to find his tattered clothes covered in dew and had sucked the moisture from them, at times chewing the fabric to extract every precious iota of fluid. It had tasted salty, grainy and caked in dried sweat but it would help him live even if it was for a few more hours. He was glad he got to it before the sun did.
He squinted his eyes to look at “The Mountain That Did This To Me.” It was the name he had given it and had begun to make a habit of idly giving the said mountain a glance every now and then. He even spoke to it, muttering now, swearing loudly later. Well, there was nobody else for him to talk to while he waited for death. After all, the damned mountain was responsible for his condition. He had to blame someone. Or something. He was going mad, he thought. Perhaps it was just delirium. He shut his eyes briefly, flicked them open once more and looked intently at his nemesis, the mountain. It shimmered for a second as a heat wave passed over it and it looked distorted. But only for a moment. Ahhh. Delirium then, he concluded, relaxing his eyes once more.
He should give it a name. At least, he would feel that he had a sort of “friend” around him when the end came. Besides, he needed to get his friend’s consent to chuck a boulder on him to end it quickly and therefore needed a name. He wanted no mistake when the time came. It had to be that very mountain. It had to finish for itself what it had already started. He swore at it for the umpteenth time in a tired voice without bothering to open his eyes. Too much effort.
He shivered from the heat and flicked open his eyes. Had he been asleep? A name had come to him as he rested:
He would christen his lifeless friend Doom Rock. How appropriate. He chuckled softly and coughed again, though not as terribly as before. Weak fingers slithered around to find a cool spot on the rocks. They found none. He gave up and pushed his palms down anyway so that he could sit up a little, facing his companion.
“Hear that? I’ll call you Doom Rock!” he addressed the mountain. “Now all that’s left is for me to draw enough karmatic* energy to get you to rain your children down on me and end this.”
He slumped back, his rasping breath sounding piteously. Three sentences and he felt he had done fifty miles of running. And he wanted to perform a karmatic spell. Very great ambitions indeed. The same way he had great ambitions of coming to Immanion. He snorted softly and felt a sharp pain in his lungs. Nothing mattered anymore. Nothing. His mind was too filled with morbid thoughts of dying to bother much with what his body now did.
Was he bitter at the fate that had befallen him almost two days hence? Oh yes. Dreadfully bitter. Only at first. Now, he could see that it was meant to be this way. What a glorious end to so much suffering! He had always wanted to go out with a bang. Well, not this time, maybe next life. He found it fascinating how slow death brought out the dark humour in him and fuelled an impatient urge to embrace the beyond… wherever that was. He chuckled hoarsely at his latest witty remark. Yesterday had been for hope, for life; but now he had resigned himself to his fate and he just wanted it done with. He wanted to die now, no more postponements.
Finding Immanion should have been his one salvation. He had hated his life and wanted it ended but thought he would give it one more try and find healing with the Gelaming. He had survived the robbery and travelled on foot this far. They said the Great City of the Tigron was near here. He had met only a huge range of mountains, stolidly glaring back at him. No matter, he had proclaimed, I will climb over them. No mountain in the universe would prevent him from reaching his goal. He had been wrong.
The climbing had been smooth but tiring. It chewed at his finger tips, bruising them raw, but he had kept on. I am almost there, he kept muttering to himself, exulting in the way the adrenalin kept his tired body going. He should have stopped but he was too excited to give in to that luxury. Dusk was swiftly approaching. Once more, an inner voice chided him to stop and rest on a nearby ledge. He refused to heed that call. Immanion was so tantalizingly close! He had dreamed of this for years and now that he was almost there, he dared not stop.
One false step in the encroaching darkness was all that was needed. He fell, battering his body as he plummeted. He heard his right leg snap. Once. Twice. He lost count. By the time he slammed at the base of the mountain, he was unconscious.
The first day had passed, with the heat, the pain and the troubles that befell him keeping him in constant mood swings. He had raged, wept, screamed, whispered, laughed, cried and reminisced about his whole life; the tragedies, the too brief periods of joy, the grief, the meager triumphs, the sufferings. All of it.
Somewhere in between, he had started talking to the mountains, singling out his nemesis. By high afternoon, he could smell his skin burning and at least had the energy to shift positions and hide in the shelter of the shadows about him. Hope had kept his energy up. Hope that somebody would come rescue him. That hope had quickly slunk to become despair and the two emotions kept swinging before him like the two-sided head of the god Janus. The Gelaming were supposed to be all-seeing, were they not? Why weren’t they here? He didn’t want to die. Someone had to come, he was sure of it. But nobody came.
The second day was here. He was beginning to regret not using his karmatic energy to kill himself earlier when he still had the strength. Too scared to die at my own hands or being too stupid to think that some Good Samaritan would come passing by and save me. Too late now. He hadn’t enough strength to even crawl behind the shade of one of the nearby rocks as he had done the day before. He must have an amazing, gorgeous tan by now, he thought wryly. How he wished it was only that. His pale skin had always been sensitive to too much sun. He could feel the sunburn everywhere on him, regardless of exposed skin or not.
His breathing was becoming irregular. He felt very tired. Yeah, okay what else is new?
He involuntarily shivered again from the heat. His head swam and he could no longer feel his ruined leg. Just as well. He coughed disastrously once more, his lungs felt as if stabbed with hot knives. His noises echoed around him. He spat more mucus, now it was mostly blood. The broken ribs had gored his lungs, going much deeper than he thought. The rasping was now more pronounced and he could feel himself getting weaker. Hooray, he thought listlessly. It comes at last. He struggled to open his blood-encrusted eyes to look at Doom Rock.
“Looks like I won’t be needing your help after all, old friend,” he croaked.
His eye caught something white and shimmering in the distance. It looked like horses. White horses. Must be a mirage… No. Gelaming on white horses. His mind was playing games. He closed his eyes and fell into that sweet void that had been eluding him for so long. He had found his peace. His last thought was… “Finally”
Karmatic energy is one of the new skills that the Wraeththu have managed to discover shortly after the ascension of Thiede and Calanthe’s coronation. It involves being able to tap into the life-force energies of nature or supposedly inanimate, non-living objects and mould it to work for the har wielding it. Only hara of Algoma (the highest caste of the second level Ulani) and above possess the talent to use this power. It is called karmatic because it is not the har that is creating the energy but rather him tapping into it, for instance, a rock’s energy and using it briefly, before returning the energy back to the object. As such, no new energy is created, neither is any destroyed. Both the living hara and the inert object get the psychic energies back once the spell is completed.
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