Chapter 30 - A Silent Rage
“Hmmm?” Antrandis replied as he and Sian walked down a wide passage.
“You have met her, haven’t you?”
He looked across and nodded, a smiled on his lips, “A long time ago, but she was not the person you remember.”
Sian glanced at him, “What do you mean?”
Antrandis’s smile shifted to a pained expression, “Neci, she was broken, timid, flighty like a deer. Always looking over her shoulder.”
“That does not sound like her, she was confident like a fire was in her veins.” Sian said with a frown, “How old were you?”
Antrandis smiled, “A child, near to my teens but not quite. Mother took me to this open field that overlooked a forest, the view was beautiful. I played there for hours while mother waited. Finally, Neci walked out from the trees father up the slopes.” he frowned slightly, “Late afternoon. I took her hand and led her to Mother. They spoke for a short time before I accompanied her back to the tree-line, but that fear in her copper eyes…”
He stopped walking and faced Sian, “As a child I made a promise to her, I decided it myself. I told her that I would protect her, I would deliver vengeance on those who hurt her, I would find the truth.”
“What did she say?” Sian asked, her emerald and silver meeting his stormy blue.
“Nothing, she looked at me with those sad eyes, tousled my hair and left without a word. From what I know, she has slept since.”
Sian stared at him, “You know where she sleeps.”
He nodded, “Not long after taking rulership of Meliandra I secured the mountain where she made her lair and the surrounds. A place where no one goes. A place you are more than familiar with.”
Sian thought for a moment, “Shattered Peak.” she whispered, “So close to… But, it’s so close to Scarosant. It makes sense though; she was always close with Mother and Father.”
Antrandis nodded, “There is more that I am not aware of and it will come out in time.”
Sian’s eyes glowed slightly, the silver flecks coming to life, “I agree. Somehow it all feels connected.” she moved in closer, “The genocide of the Aletere, my first death, the abandonment of the Sanctums, Mother and Father’s exile and punishment, and the distance between Neci the Copper and her mate… It is too much of a coincidence.”
Antrandis watched the thoughts play out on Sian’s face, her mind roiling with concentration, “There are two things that I find deeply troubling.” she said, looking into his eyes.
“Yes and your recollection of Neci.” Sian glanced about the passage, “Can you feel the anger here? The quiet rage?” she asked with a hushed voice, “It’s in the walls, the stone. Can you feel it?” she stopped for a brief, intense moment, “Does it match the woman you met as a child?”
Antrandis kept his eyes on hers and shook his head, “No, my dear Sian. It does not, not in the slightest.”
“Everything is empty; there was once a garden in the middle, vines and greenery. But there are no petrified remains. Every room we have seen as if nothing were ever in there. We must see his rooms. Their individual rooms were private, and neither could enter the other except by force if uninvited, not that it should have been needed.”
Antrandis nodded and followed her as she took the lead, taking the left fork in the passageway ahead. Sian picked up her pace, frowning as the first scratches were noticed. A faint glow came from her eyes as she broke into a short jog before coming to a halting stop. She stood with eyes wide in plain disbelief.
“I can see,” Antrandis said while walking past her, “Fury.”
He stopped, the sight before the both of them of a violent anger. The walls and door at the end of the passage no longer existed. Deep gouges had been torn into the polished surfaces, the stone ripped and shredded like the soft clay banks of a river. Pools of now-cooled molten rock left rivulets on the floor. Instead of an ornate entryway was a blasted and twisted mess of metal and shattered stone.
Antrandis crouched and ran a finger over the edge of a gouge in the floor, the crevice deep and jagged. He shook his head.
“This was not anger of being romantically spurned, this was utter hatred.” he looked up to Sian, “The Neci I met could not do this.”
“The Neci I knew could do this and more.” Sian gestured, guiding him to her, “The representative gods of the old world. Empowered and in a rage, even the thought is terrible to behold.”
“My father gifted me a sword that could destroy a mountain with a single strike if left unchecked. This is,” she looked at the damage, “this is only a message.”
She quickly stepped along the ridges and skipped lightly over the fractured floor until she came to the remains of the door, a couple of twisted metal remains. Inside, the glow of the cold fire lit the room. Her eyes narrowed, this room like all others was empty, bare. Other signs of damage were further in, as if Neci had taken her dragon form and tore at parts of the walls and floor, searching.
“Do you see it?” Sian heard at her ear.
She watched as Antrandis made his way past and over to the middle of the room, a step up to a significant circular platform that was set in the middle of the floor.
“I guess where the bed should be?” he said, glancing back to her briefly.
A detail nearby his feet caught her eye, “Yes.” she said, approaching.
Crouching, they both looked at what appeared to be a steel pin hammered into the floor. Sian stared quietly.
“Dearest, what is it?”
Sian quickly stood and looked at the room again, the damage on the walls and floor.
“My Love, look.”
“It is the runes of the old world, the script of dragons. Gods…”
Sian nodded, “One word: ‘Lies’. Over and over.” she looked at the stretched and twisted token that had been pierced by the pin, “Then that is the emblem of their union. She believed in him until she could no more.”
“It is just symbolic. But she would have severed herself from their…” she looked wildly at Antrandis, “The memory, please. I need to see what you saw.”
He drew her close and into a firm embrace. Her emerald meeting his stormy blue as she looked up and into his eyes. He could feel her subconscious, their shared existence on the shore of the ocean that spread out before them. Bringing his head down, he rested his forehead on hers, drawing her tighter still as their eyes both flared in the low light. Slowly, they allowed their separate conscious selves to join as he brought her into the dream-scape, sharing the memory as if she had been there herself.
A dull throbbing boom rumbled through the air, the shock of lightning-less thunder bent the lush blades of grass in the glade as the air reverberated for just a fraction of a second before the sudden flash of light. Both mother and son blinked into existence upon the middling slopes of the mountain, in the clearing among the trees. The crest lazily arced away to the west, a great valley opening up between the arms, the dense forest below winding its way through the shared valleys of the opposing mountains leading to the edge of the coast. Beyond the picturesque scene of the mountains and trees lay the ocean, its calm waves beckoning seductively in the distance. The languid warmth of late summer reaching up the arms toward the smashed remains of the peak, caressing the forest and exposed rocky shale.
Sharp fingers of shattered stone crowned the missing peak, a visible cleft as if a colossus from the depths of mythology had smote the mountain. Cracking and cleaving the peak from its rightful place and throwing its pieces in a rage, leaving large shards of stone laying on the slopes, embedded and being slowly overgrown by the encroaching forests.
“Mama? Look!” the boy said, his stormy blue eyes quickly picking out the sweep of foam on the distant shore.
The woman chuckled and tousled his hair before leaning down beside him.
“How far can you see without using your sight, Antrandis?” she said calmly, looking along his shoulder.
A small grin marked with cheek came to his lips, “As far as I want!”
He quickly looked up and into his mother’s eyes, the endless myriad swirl of infinity met his gaze as she looked at him with an indulgent smile.
“Such cheek! Show me, my son.”
Antrandis’s eyes widened, “I am allowed to?”
“Is Winter here to suggest you shouldn’t?”
Antrandis smiled and focused on the distant horizon before closing his eyes. As he opened his eyes again the storm came to life within them, lightning sparking and flashing in their depths. A tight wind started to whirl around him the moment he started to raise his hands, his fingertips at his temples as he concentrated.
“What do you see my son?”
“I see the ocean, the waves, the far shore… Forests, deserts…” he said at a whisper.
“You can see beyond the horizon?”
“Yes, Mama. I see life, death…”
“What else can you see, my dearest boy?”
He glanced at her, his eyes raking over her quickly before looking at his own hands.
“That is right Antrandis.” she said, giving him room.
“Can you see this, Mama?”
She smiled, “That and more. Do you see her? That slow beat of her heart?”
Antrandis nodded quickly, his eyes fixated on the ground at his feet. She casts the same shadow as… Is she?”
She nodded, “She is, would you like to meet her? She will wake later today.”
“Yes, Mama, I would love to meet her.”
She chuckled, “While we wait, would you like to look to the stars with those eyes of yours?”
Lightning roiled in Antrandis’s young eyes as he looked up, barely noting the stream of silver shooting across the sky and on approach. The lightning in his eyes grew more intense as black sooty tendrils grew and darkened around his eyelids, the grey blue seas within darkening and swirling with steadily growing black storm clouds. A dull resounding thud beckoned his turn.
“Mama, I…” Antrandis said, turning in wonder to find a wall of steel grey feathers.
“He is not ready, Lumos!” said a low voice.
“I was wondering how long it would take for you to intervene, Winter. You are his guardian, but I am his mother. Do not forget your place, Valkyrie.”
Winter’s form shifted suddenly, returning to the winged wilderelf.
“Lumos, that is my place; it is my duty to protect him from anything, including yourself until he is ready.”
Lumos smiled, “Well said Valkyrie. Next time I expect you to be faster.”
Winter nodded, “I will not let him out of my sight.”
“Make sure it is so, Winter.”
The shield of feathers flicked away as Winter turned, bringing her face close, her steel eyes on his as they churned and flickered with black clouds and lightning. She frowned, her eyes narrowing as she swept him into an embrace.
“Why?” Lumos laughed, “It is good for him to test his limits.”
Winter stared at her, a wild look in her eyes.
“Calm Valkyrie, I just wanted to see him. You can’t deny me that.” said Lumos a hollow expression on her face, “He is the splitting image of his father at the same age. Even his eyes.”
She levelled her gaze at Winter, “I would never hurt my son, Winter. To hurt him, would be the same as hurting the man I fell in love with and the memory of him. I know you are still new to the role I gave you, so I will turn a deaf ear to your words.”
She gestured to Antrandis and knelt before him, drawing him close.
“Mama, I am fine, there is nothing wrong.”
“Release your sight, my beautiful boy. Winter is right, no more experimenting until you are older. Even if I tempt you, you are your own person. The last thing I want to see is you being corrupted by the temptation of unlimited power.”
“But Mama, there…”
Lumos kissed his forehead, “My son, release your sight, it is not time.”
Antrandis frowned, but nodded and concentrated, his eyes slowly returning to normal. Lumos sighed gently.
“We are here to meet someone.” Lumos said as she stood.
Winter placed her hands on Antrandis’s shoulders, shifting behind him until he rested against her.
“Aisling told me that it must be here, and it must be me and my son. She did not say who.” Lumos said, watching Winter’s possessive gesture with a sad smile.
Winter’s eyes narrowed, “Here?” she asked while she turned, quickly taking in the surrounds, her face paling as recognition took hold.
“Shattered Peak?” Winter said with barely a breath, “It must be here? Who?”
Lumos smiled slightly, “You are familiar with this place?”
Winter nodded slowly, “I knew the one who destroyed the mountain. We are near the ruins of the great Sanctum of Scarosant.” she turned quickly, looking further down the coast along the jagged teeth of the mountains, “The remnants of the elven city of Meliandra are there, and the dwarven cities wind their way under many of these mountains.”
Winter’s gaze returned to the smashed mountain whose slopes they stood on. Her eyes instinctively searching the edges of the glade.
Lumos watched Winter as she resettled her wings, “You knew who did this? Was he a friend or foe?”
The valkyrie absently met the goddess’s gaze, “She was more than a friend, she was my ward, the light in the darkness of my servitude.” her eyes sharpened, “She was the shooting star that flashed through the midnight of my existence.”
Winter’s eyes met Antrandis’s stormy blue, a consuming smile on her lips and in her eyes, “A midnight that is now day. She is now only a bright memory of a time long gone.”
Lumos smiled knowingly, “Then we have more in common than you realise.”
“Mama?” Antrandis said.
Lumos looked down and smiled.
“Go and explore, my son. Nothing here is a threat to you.” she said, her eyes on Winter’s, shaking her head slightly as the valkyrie motioned to protest, “Keep him in sight if you must.”
“I will just be in the trees over there, I think I saw something.” he said.
Lumos smiled and nodded, watching as he turned away. A small frown came to her brow as he reached back and took Winter’s hand before walking through the grass with the valkyrie in tow. Sighing lightly, she looked out over the distant ocean, dampness in her eyes as she waited.