Chapter 22 - Destiny's Path
~ Eighteen cycles of the seasons - 5 Years earlier ~
“Lia. I am Lia.”
He watched her thoughtfully and Lia blushed even deeper, her thoughts straying as she felt his eyes on her.
“I could feel you as soon as I arrived, a feeling I can not escape.” he touched his chest briefly, “I am sure you can feel the same. I have been suppressing it, as I see you have.”
Lia looked at him hard, knowing immediately what he was hinting at.
“Who are you? Others of our kind can not keep it in check when destiny is decided.” she asked.
She watched him smile as he closed his eyes, “Who am I?” she heard him whisper to himself, pondering the thought.
His eyes opened slightly, the gleam of blue showing, “Who am I really?” he asked gently, a frown furrowing his brow, “I am not too sure anymore. What are you really asking of me? Do you want to know the sum of my memories or do you wish to see my soul laid bare, the truth of my being, that spark of life that pulses through my mortal veins?”
Lia took in a sharp breath, “Those are the words of the dwarven poet, Kelbenstron!”
Rhyker smiled, “Those words speak the truth, especially to those of our kind. I have become aware of the truth in the seal of destiny that our kind is bound by.”
“But, how is this possible?”
“It disregards everything, except the truth of our soul. That is why it can not be denied. Those of us that have experienced that peak in our thread and thrown ourselves off that cliff, given ourselves over to that absolute power and returned unscathed, only we have that measure of control and the capacity to appreciate the possibilities.”
He opened his eyes and met hers, sharp sky-blue meeting a dulcet amber sunset. She felt a deep part of herself shift; the roiling waves of the ocean within grow calm and faultless as if a great mirror stretched from one horizon to another.
“Can you feel it?” she whispered to him, “It is…”
“Perfection.” he whispered back, “What is left of our kind and its shared understandings is only the faintest shadow under a sun heading to midday. We do not know who we are or why we are, just that we are here. Maybe it is for the better as we decline to nothingness.”
“Again, poetry, the elven seer, Imladiir. Gods… Who are you?” she exclaimed.
“I am a man, looking into the mirror of two souls, to see a woman staring back at me.” he said, a deft smile on his lips, “I am nothing that you expected…”
“Yet everything I crave.” she finished.
His smile grew as she felt the mirrored surface grow tumultuous again.
“Again, Imladiir.” Rhyker said, his eyes still on hers, “You are well read.”
Lia smiled at him, her mind racing with what he had said, “How do you know of these things that nobody knows?”
“I have studied the scripts of our kind and its history in the Sanctum of Shadows.”
“Sanctum of Shadows? Is that not just…”
He laughed, “Pretentious?”
They shared a humoured look, Lia’s chest was starting to burn as she moved a little closer in the water.
“Several years back, the Great Sanctum of the Black and White was uncovered. The library was meticulously preserved. Histories and texts from its construction, right up to when it was sealed are stored in a great library that rings its core. Our people’s history, records, scriptures and documentation of events are there, a small part among other much more important treasures of the old world.”
“The Black and White?” she asked, hanging on his words.
Rhyker nodded, “They were dragons… It was sealed a thousand or so years before the fall of the world.”
“You have access to texts on our people?” she said quietly, astounded.
“Whenever I have had time, I have read. As much as I would like to continue, other matters are at hand that take precedence over our almost extinct race that got caught in an act of…” he stared at her and chuckled quietly, “To mention more would mean trouble.”
“Please, Rhyker. Tell me.”
“I am sorry, it is part of the reason why I am here at the academy. The old library holds some secrets of its own.”
Lia shifted closer; the intensity in her lighting the embers of her ethereal fire, those amber depths glowering with sparks of blue. The dappled light of the moon drawing overhead made her wet shoulders and hair shimmer silver in the night making him hold his breath. That endless ocean of her thread suddenly calmed, faint ripples shaking its surface as she reached out with both her thread and soul.
She watched as he grimaced, gritting his teeth.
“Why are you forcing me Lia, the last Empress of Hollenhiem?” he gasped as his body tensed up under the strain.
Lia stared at him in confusion, blinking, the waves within her once again growing tumultuous, “What did…?” she asked, her voice wavering, “Empress?”
Rhyker nodded, breathing deeply in relief as she withdrew, “You are the last of your line. The last of the Fyrelves that bore the thread.”
“A mountain fortress and ancient city of the fyrelves. If anything of its ruins remain, they are deep in the Darklands.”
She watched him as he fought to calm his breathing, “What just happened?” she whispered in a mixture of fear and concern.
He shook his head, “I was not ready, I was not aware that you use your power freely and without restraint.” a smile came to his lips, “Looking at you, I had a moment of weakness.”
“Looking at me…?” she echoed quietly, her eyes on his, “I am sorry, I did not mean to.”
She moved closer still, the water lapping at her shoulders, “Please, let me make this right.”
Lia watched him as he thought, shoulder-deep in the pool while the moonlight poured in through the trees.
“Gods be damned.” he muttered under his breath, his eyes sparking in the night, “Eira knew.” he said, glancing in the direction of her rooms.
“Lia, I cannot stay,” he met her eyes again, “And you cannot come with me, it is too dangerous.”
She watched the conflict in his eyes, of desire and duty.
“In less than a fortnight my partner will arrive and we must leave for the Darklands immediately. There is something that the head of the order is searching for.”
Lia stared at him, her eyes on every movement, entranced as the droplets of water beaded on his jaw. Now she knew what it meant, the wild power that consumed everything in its path. Even in this moment he was hers and she was his. Every nerve in her body felt like it were on fire, burning away her reason, breaking down and overwhelming her resistance.
She swallowed, her heart turning over, “If you gave in, if you were mine…We do not have a choice, Rhyker. You will not abandon your task, but you will feel me in every moment that I am yours.” she breathed in raggedly, “I will feel that you are mine.”
“I will remain here, I graduate in two years. You come to me when you have finished, a few years compared to our lifespans is nothing.”
He looked at her in understanding, his eyes widening as he shook his head, “Lia, I do not know how long, it could be years. If we hold it off, I will be leaving soon, then we…”
Lia breathed in deeply before shifting within his reach. She raised her hand and gently rested it on his chest, the heat under her fingertips almost searing in sublime agony. She could feel his heartbeat, sense the life within him. She slowly closed her eyes, feeling the coiling of his thread responding to her own, anticipation replacing fear and trepidation.
“Mother told me to trust you, to not fear being abandoned, that you will return to me. She knew that we will be apart, that I should not doubt my decision.”
She opened her eyes, her ethereal fire flickering with a slow sultry burn in their amber depths. Letting her power flood through her as a lightness buoyed her spirit. The heat in her chest refused to calm and dismantled what was left of her will. She could see the reflection of her flames in his eyes as they spread down her arms. She no longer recognised herself as she succumbed to the pull on her soul.
“Lia, are you sure?”
She stood, the water sheeting off her, exposing herself to the waist. Her firm body sensually glistened in the mixture of the moonlight and wash of her ethereal fire. Lia looked down at him, feeling the shift in his thread as he let it wake from slumber. Fire came to his eyes, flames of heat and destruction burning within their depths. She watched him stand before her, looking up and into his eyes.
Less than an arm’s length apart they stood.
“I do not want to hurt you, Lia.”
She smiled, “Your fire does not concern me, Rhyker. No matter how hot, I am safe from its flames.”
She reached out and placed her hand on his defined chest, her eyes on his, her breath catching in her chest at the sight of flames the colour of a fiery sunset pouring from those sky blue eyes. Heat immediately came to her cheeks as the tumultuous ocean of her thread smoothed and become crystal-clear in response to his. Sudden calm came to her, she could see his expression mirrored in herself, the joy and peace of their threads entwining, stripping all misgivings away.
She did not need to look down to see, she could feel the cold fire of the mark forming under her skin. The seal of destiny, the mark combining their respective sigils, its meaning lost in time and now only known as the union of two. As the cold fire lessened a pleasant burn of warmth remained. Reaching up, she ran a hand around to the nape of his neck, her fingers lacing into his hair. Feeling his movement in return, pleasurable shocks ran through her as his fingertips brushed her waist before the press of his hand against the small of her back, drawing her against him while she guided his lips to hers.
Time seemed to stand still, the forest and all other sounds drowned out by the beating of Lia’s heart. They separated slightly, taking a short moment to look at each other, to see their expressions mirrored back at them. Words failed her as she let her flames flicker out, suddenly self-conscious of the warm press of his body against hers and their shared heat.
Resting her head on his shoulder she cried, her tears mingling with the water that tracked down his back. His embrace tightening reflexively in response to her quiet sobs, his large hands holding her securely.
He spoke in the tongue she could not recognise, his voice cutting straight to her heart as he calmed her with gentle whispers that she innately understood but could not decipher.
“What language do you speak my dark prince?” she mused at a whisper, a shiver running down her spine as she felt his soft breath at her ear.
Lia stood leaning against the wall, her breathing heavy. The memory was sharp in its reliving, setting her nerves aflame and her heart racing as she slid to the floor with her fingertips grazing her lips. The door was gone and the room had changed. Six walls made up its perimeter now and only three doors were there to be opened. The reliving was so vivid she could even smell the scent of his damp hair and the scorched odour of his fire burning off the moisture in the air that surrounded them. She slowly let out a breath, the embers in her eyes alive and impassioned. Across from her was the door to his departure, those moments where Laela found her and ran alongside, she remembered that evening he had left the academy.
Lia sighed warily; there was something to be seen in those moments, another memory to be relived. She glanced at the door to her rooms at night, longing to be once again in his arms as she was sure of the memory it led to.
“No, Lia…Soon, I will have more than just a memory.”
She stood, her eyes on the door to his departure. He had done as she asked, but it hurt nonetheless, the moment where he had to be gone and their wait began. She grimaced slightly and strode toward it.