"Wars of Light and Darkness"
By: Jade Lightning, a.k.a. ReverseTheEclipse
"The First Interlude"
Verse Thirty-Two: “Treachery and Treason”
Shadow blinked at UnLight for a moment, the altercation developing around the dinner fires just beyond the edge of the jungle sliding so far away from him they might as well be on the other side of the planet. It was just Shadow and UnLight, these two half-brothers, never knowing the close bond Shadow had with Arandor, and yet in many ways being closer than the Dark Elemental ever could be with his Light counterpart.
The bond and blood of family runs impossibly deep. Their DNA was different enough that they could share descendants without a problem, but they were connected nonetheless, and it was in this moment, in such close proximity to each other, that they truly felt this. It was even more palpable than it was the day UnLight attempted to end Shadow’s life. There was no venom, no wall; just these two damaged spirits.
“His…entire family?” Shadow repeated, almost breathlessly. He looked up at UnLight; his orange eyes, gentle but stern with a touch of anger left over from his earlier irritation were now melancholic but still full of wisdom. Shadow didn’t know what journey UnLight had taken over the past two-thousand years, and now more than ever he was dying to ask him.
UnDark spent the time murdering and harming people in various ways. Shadow spent his in isolation being a silent guardian, and even a father in some ways, to Arandor’s children. Arandor spent his in a slumber deeper than any would ever know. Shadow remembered seeing UnLight watching the world go by. What had he seen; what had he done in this world; he was so different from the last time they spoke.
“Yes…his father, and his mother…they were two of the greatest Guardians.” UnLight said finally, looking back out at the firelight. “His father was Omega of Memories, a very powerful Guardian. His mother was Medula of Dreams…she was what was known as a Jewel, one of the greatest lights of the universe.” He cut his eyes at Shadow. “She was beautiful. I think our uncle’s drawing of her falls short. …as for Omega, Mukot got his looks from him but…Uncle Serpent is practically his clone.” He paused, leaning back on the tree again. “They had a little sister, Nienor of Love, who looked a lot like their mother. There was…space for a fourth on the page but, whoever it was got rubbed out. All I could make out was the word, “sacrifice,” and in this situation, a word like that doesn’t bode well.”
By now Shadow found his own tree to lean on for support. “His family…” he repeated. “And you think he killed all of them?”
UnLight shook his head. “I cannot say, but…I believe he did.” Looking into Shadow’s eyes he continued, “If they were alive, they would not have allowed this to happen. Think about it. He removed the ones that stood the best chance at saving him, changing his mind. Love, Memories…his own mother. …he murdered them Shadow.” He looked out. “If they live, they’re no longer who they used to be. Perhaps that is why the fourth child was erased. If they were dead, why not leave them with the others?”
“…My God,” Shadow murmured closing his eyes. Neither of them said anything for a moment, completely absorbed by this deep and dark family secret. “His treachery knows no bounds. …UnLight there’s something far more evil at work here. It takes something very evil to make one kill their own mother.”
“…Medula she…she’s the one, that I look like, her and Nienor.” UnLight said finally, swallowing a bit. “It’s why…I’m brown and look nothing like you or UnDark.” He looked up frowning. “I’m telling you this so you’ll…have some idea. What good that idea will do you, I have no clue. It just…felt important to tell you.”
Shadow straightened up, having put almost all his weight onto the tree, unable to stand for those few moments, his red eyes shining with an almost innocent look. When he looked into UnLight’s again, he saw the same. They were two little boys, both abused, wanting something so simple but never getting it, and it was now that they finally understood why. It was hard for Shadow to swallow because he, eventually, had gotten it, from Kalak and Arandor. UnLight had Serpent taken from him, and it was Serpent who was his only chance at feeling it…or perhaps not.
“UnLight, stop this madness. You…you can leave him, you know, stay with me…or don’t, but you don’t have to go back. How can you now that you know what he’s capable of? This is just his immediately family. Who knows who else he’s killed? Whether it’s his fault or not, nothing good can come from this!” Shadow exclaimed.
UnLight rolled his eyes in annoyance, turning away. “You know why I can’t leave. …if I do… …he’d…” He sighed. “Nobody wants me anyway.”
Shadow frowned. “You liar.”
Looking back UnLight frowned too. “Stop Shadow…just…just don’t. I…I can’t.” He looked away moving some of his hair back. “I’ve done what I set out to do. Feel free to go tell your ‘father’ and all of the rest of them what you’ve learned, of course I’m sure some of them knew it already and just chose not to say anything. He created you. I felt like you deserved to know regardless of whatever those stupid Guardians thought was best.”
Shadow immediately thought of Agatha and became enraged. Sneering he retorted, “What do you mean what they thought was best?”
UnLight looked at him, staring for a moment as though trying to figure out the source of the anger, and when he found it, his ears went back slightly. “…her. I’m…sorry.” He sighed, looking out. “Please…I don’t lump Agatha of Chastity into that, I don’t see how anyone can. …Uncle Serpent wrote about ‘that’ as well. …I damn near threw up. …she didn’t deserve that…”
The anger that shot through Shadow began to dissipate, but as he straightened up he saw UnLight’s neck bend as he attempted to wipe his eyes with his shoulder. He came up short when the thought entered his head…the thought that UnLight might have…shed a tear, at the thought of poor Agatha’s suffering. Shadow’s conviction was now stronger than ever; UnLight had to be saved.
“…still you…think the other Guardians are just using us, as chess pieces, nothing more,” Shadow replied slowly. Speaking of Agatha had strangled his own heart, and so he tried to get back around to the subject at hand.
UnLight was silent, opting to use his hand now, realizing hiding his tears was no use. He knew Shadow of all people would not judge him for it, either negatively or positively, and though he didn’t say it, he appreciated that. Taking a breath to calm himself he whispered, “Mukot is…not my father, but neither is Uncle Serpent.” He glanced at Shadow, his voice stronger now. “We have no fathers. We are no more than pieces, and if you believe any differently, it just shows you’re a puppet, just like they want.”
Shadow frowned. “We’re not puppets. We’re pieces in a great story. Father loves me, and UnLight he’d have loved you too if you had come to him, and you know it. Please…don’t turn away from Mukot yet if you’re not ready, but think about it. Don’t throw away the chance at a family like he did with both hands, regardless of what his reasons were. Please…just think about it.”
“Oh like you have? Telling Thaileon and Armundae you’ll never have your own children?” UnLight replied bitterly. To this Shadow said nothing, only blinking out of shock before sighing, not having an answer. UnLight shook his head. “Arandor did that. He WAS Kalak’s son. He was made out of love. You and I weren’t. That might be okay for UnDark who only loves himself but…me, I’d give anything to know what you do.”
“If you would…you’d walk away from him, tonight,” Shadow replied.
UnLight sneered. “You know why I can’t. I have to see this through, to the end,” he paused, his sneer melting to a frown. “When you left him Shadow, what did he do? He created me, he created UnDark, he almost murdered his own brother, and he had Arandor killed. If I leave…” He paused, shaking his head holding out his hand. “I doubt he truly loves me, but to him, any loss is unforgivable. If I leave for no other reason than my own selfish desires, no matter how noble, people will suffer, and I’ll be no better than that fool Arandor that dammed that poor girl Deannalee and even Kashkie. I…refuse to make that mistake, and you know as well as I do that if he could do it all over again, he wouldn’t have either.”
Shadow looked at his hand, taking it as he thought about what UnLight said. As UnLight pulled him up he asked, “So, this is why you’re staying? You’re staying with him to try and protect people even when you know he’ll still kill as many as he can?”
“Isn’t that what you’re doing?” UnLight asked, “Saving as many as you can even in defiance of your father? ‘Only save the Children of Arandor’ he says, and yet you’re trying to save that boy Armundae, and as many as you can, same with Kashkie.” He looked up at the heavens. “I’m…tired of people dying, and hurting, over nothing more than selfish desire. We…we can’t afford to be selfish Shadow.” He looked at him. “We can only accept what is given to us. If the powers above decide to give me a reason stronger than my own desires that would lead me away from Mukot, then I will walk away, and… …I will know you’ll be there for me.”
UnLight’s gaze dropped to the ground, fixated on a jungle flower glowing under the moonlight. Shadow frowned sadly, looking at it as well. “You’re right, Arandor wouldn’t have made the mistake, the mistake of leaving everyone behind to fight the battle that was started over him. …but he would never have changed his actions; the love he felt for Mitsukai and Hailamei, those children, and this world.” Shadow looked at UnLight. “He’d never regret those. They were desires and love that were greater than his own. That…is what you’re waiting for.”
“It’ll never happen,” UnLight whispered bitterly, “I was just…telling you what my plans were.” He looked at Shadow, red and orange eyes meeting, older and younger, brothers. “I can’t just walk away, not yet.” He took a deep breath looking back at the flower. “I’m…going to be made to do things I will not like, but in everything that comes, just believe…I don’t truly want it at all. All I can do, is save everyone I can, and who knows…maybe even Mukot himself…one day.”
“Sacrifice…,” Shadow whispered. Looking at UnLight he sighed smiling some. “Fair enough just…UnLight please, be careful. Simply speaking out in this way is punishable enough, you know this.”
UnLight looked at him again, smirking. “I made sure, don’t worry. I might be younger than you but I’m not stupid.” He chuckled some rubbing his neck. “…don’t stop being my enemy Shadow. I want to be hated. …I want to be…reminded of why all of this is wrong, and why…I cannot afford to win.” He looked at him. “For that family of his, and Agatha, and all of the ones he hurt, even Kashkie and Deannalee, you have to be the one that wins. Make him realize that this war he’s waging against Arandor, has been setting you up for victory all along.”
“Me?” Shadow blinked. “UnLight I’m not…there is no victor here you know that.”
“No victor, but still heroes. It’s not Arandor that’s the hero here Shadow,” UnLight said plainly, staring at him. “If you’re given something precious, don’t turn your nose up because you think you don’t deserve it. That’s the biggest load of bullshit you could ever entertain. …don’t make things harder than they already are. I’ve watched you, for a very long time. For once…trust me, even if I’ve never given you reason to before. Trust me now.”
Shadow frowned; UnLight was never one to lie to him, and despite their rocky past, he did feel trust for him. Nodding slowly he whispered, “It’s something neither of us can see but…I’ll trust you.”
UnLight stared for a second, then gave the faintest of smiles. “I see it…” He looked out opening a portal. “Maybe it’s something from Uncle Serpent or, just a good feeling but, I see it.” He glanced at him. “I’ll see you again, and…when the day comes…” He swallowed hard taking a breath, “I’ll do whatever I can to spare Thaileon’s family, Armundae’s as well. I can’t stop fighting, but…I can change what I’m fighting for. …I’ll see you later Shadow.”
“…Be safe,” was all Shadow could muster, his body numb for the first time in a long while.
UnLight smirked some. “Look sharp,” he whispered, taking a deep breath. “Thank you…Shadow. …after we murdered Arandor, I don’t see how you could forgive either of us, although I never expect you to do that for UnDark. …if it weren’t for that, for you, I…wouldn’t believe… …See you soon.” He headed into the portal closing it after him after this.
Shadow frowned again. What wouldn’t he believe? Having completely lost interest in the echidnas for the moment the Dark Elemental leaned on the tree again. With Kashkie gone for an entire year, painful withdrawal and isolation stung Shadow almost constantly, and even with him awake, it was hard to adjust to having him back. This conversation with UnLight made him realize he had not been alone that entire time. Although UnLight’s realization of Mukot’s past was very recent, UnLight already had it in him to keep a close eye on his older brother, whether out of curiosity or reluctance; Shadow was never truly alone.
For the first time, he felt like he could call UnLight a friend. Maybe a brother, not yet, but soon. They had to be careful; if any of this was found out, not only would UnLight be killed, but as UnLight had said, it would make Mukot’s wrath come down harder than ever.
Regardless of why sacrifice was written in Serpent’s memoirs, it had a deeper meaning for these two brothers. On two different sides of the line, they sacrificed everything, down to their blood and their very souls. Two among many, sacrificing everything to end a war that hid it’s true origins and ambitions. While UnLight felt they were simply pieces, and Shadow felt they were just characters in a great story, the final mission was the same.
Fight, sacrifice, and die, so that others could live, and the rest, be given peace.
“Any tragedy is laced,
With treachery and treason.
After so much time has passed,
Very few know the reason.
Why they fight, why they die,
What the suffering is for.
They lean on hope for better days,
Where none hurt anymore.”
“What’s wrong? Did I crash the party?” Teikaru said again, grinning. While Shadow and UnLight had their discussion in the shadows of the jungle, Teikaru was met with silence around the dinner fires, everyone in the village staring him down coldly. The silence was again broken by Kashkie coughing hard, dry heaving, as the rest of his dinner had survived being regurgitated and yet he was still terribly sickened simply by Teikaru’s presence.
“Toby, get back over here!” Lily hissed.
“Oh come on Toby, grow a pair,” Teikaru groaned. “Besides you have something that belongs to me,” he pointed at Baralai. “That is MY son, and now that that little yellow fur ball you all love so much is awake I sure as hell can’t chance him around my kid. Hand him over.”
Lily shouted, “Like hell! Toby move!”
Baralai wailed. “I don’t want to go with you!”
“You’ve fucking brainwashed him Dee! That’s MY son, and until you pop out a daughter that’s the best you idiots are gonna get! I get to decide what is best for him!” Teikaru snarled.
Casselina got up slowly. “Teikaru, I have no idea how deep your nonsense goes, but you being Baralai’s father doesn’t make it so you can take him and do whatever you want with him,” she looked at him, “This night is for Kashkie and I’ll be dammed if you ruin it.”
Teikaru glanced at Kashkie venomously. “Why couldn’t you have just died you dirty bastard. Everything would have been a lot easier.”
Kashkie immediately looked at Teikaru, locking eyes with him, causing his pupils to shrink. “Everything would have been a lot easier.” Somehow Kashkie knew there was deeper meaning behind that. Teikaru meant to harm not only Baralai, but Deannalee as well. Although he could not remember why, he knew he could never let that larger goal succeed. Thinking of this, and Deannalee’s tearful story earlier forced rage to overcome his paranoia. He tore away from Deannalee where she sat, covering his body in a protective manner, rushing for Teikaru wielding fire. “You leave them alone!!” he snarled.
“Kashkie!!” Deannalee cried, a collective gasp emerging from the village.
Teikaru’s eyes gleamed. “You want a fight? Bring it! I win you die and I get my son back. …I also get to kill Deannalee…she’s worthless now.” He summoned water to his hands rushing to meet Kashkie.
“Kashkie don’t!” Lily cried, “Casselina, Dee stop them!”
By now Toby had jumped back and set Baralai down safely with Deannalee. After being scooped up by his mother Baralai frowned. “Mama I don’t want Uncle Kashkie to go to sleep again! Daddy might hurt him badly enough that that happens!”
Deannalee looked at him sadly. She wasn’t sure what had set Kashkie off only that she and Baralai needing protecting was the most likely suspect. “Kashkie! Look over here! Baralai and I are safe! You don’t have to fight!”
Blasting fire at Teikaru Kashkie flipped over some water, landing on his feet. His eyes glanced back at them when he heard this. His mind flicked at him painfully; his head was swimming and he still felt sick. He knew she was right, but as he lowered his guard a gush of water slammed hard into his head, causing his neck to crack. By now everyone was getting up to try and stop the altercation; they shared the same fear that Baralai did. It wasn’t that Kashkie couldn’t win, it was the fact that he was still recovering from the ordeal. It wasn’t a fair fight.
“Aww come on Kashkie! You wanna take them from me you’ve gotta have more balls than that!” Teikaru said with a laugh, blasting more water into the echidna, forming a ball of water around his head in an attempt to drown him. He snarled. “TAKE THEM!”
Kashkie blasted the water orb away sputtering a second, before blasting fire mixed with rocks back at Teikaru, shoving him into a tree. He raised his fist to punch him but stopped again, coughing hard, blood trickling from his nose. Everyone was frozen, everyone but Casselina, who used wind to pin Teikaru to the tree before pulling Kashkie to safety, putting him behind her as he finally let himself collapse, winded from overexerting himself in the fight.
“That’s ENOUGH!” Casselina thundered, glaring at Teikaru. “You’re just lucky I cannot condemn you to death without further proof of your treachery! You lay one more hand or attack on my family and I won’t need it! The entire village will be a witness! Is that clear?!”
Deannalee left Baralai with Lily and Toby before running to check on Kashkie, who continued to sputter on the ground. Bending down next to him she rubbed his back gently, frowning. “Kashkie…are you alright?”
On his hands and knees Kashkie coughed, wiping the blood from his nose in messy streaks as his body began to shake. He felt sick on the inside, in his heart; he couldn’t be this weak, this vulnerable, not when he needed to protect them. He was all they had. They could protect themselves of course, they proved this, but this was with the entire village on their side; he wasn’t stupid enough to do anything truly wicked with them all standing there.
Still, if he got Deannalee or Casselina alone, with him or little Baralai to protect, they stood no chance. Teikaru was more than just the most powerful water wielder in the village; he was something far more demonic…evil. It reminded him of that dark place he was in not too long ago, the place where the only escape from the torture was to gouge out his own eyes until that figure came to save him.
That same figure pleaded with him to keep Deannalee safe, and now, it was becoming all the more personal for him.
“I…I can’t…,” he wiped his mouth, pushing himself up slowly. “I’ve…I’ve got to get better. Things…can’t go on, like this.”
“Kashkie,” Deannalee murmured, steadying him as she looked at him sadly. “Just take it easy, you’re going to be just fine.”
Teikaru was sneering at Casselina. “I liked it better when you were on my side, bitch.” This caused an audible and collective gasp from everyone there, followed by shouts of treason. This caused him to laugh. “There’s no rule that says you can kill me for calling you a name Queen Casselina, or excuse me, former queen. Unless you’ve got proof of something more damning than that all we’re looking at is a pissed off father with a sharp tongue and a frightened child that is being made weak by his little mother and her yellow whore over there. How many have you managed to bang Kashkie? Seriously? They’re getting rid of their way of life because of you? I’ve never heard of anything more stupid! Of course they would do that only after you took EVERYTHING from me!”
“That’s enough!!” Casselina shouted over the din of voices.
Lily rocked Baralai, who now hid his face, sniffing into her shoulder. “Toby this is getting out of hand,” she looked at him, “He’s right we don’t have proof, even if we’re convinced he’s been drugging women from both villages just for his own amusement. Kashkie looks like he’s about to faint over there.”
Toby nodded. There were other men in the village but with Renaldo gone very few were brave enough to stand up to Teikaru. Despite opinion of him descending to an all time low, he was still the husband of the Guardian Queen, and the father of her only heir. Most would not confront him to his face. The only one that would was Kashkie, and in the state he was in now, this wasn’t an option.
Walking ahead Toby slammed his arm into Teikaru’s throat, completely ignoring the crush of wind coming from Casselina. “You listen here. You cannot complain about the customs of a village you’ve forsaken. Why don’t you go back to your little hideout and leave the rest of us alone. They may respect you here, but if you come close to my village again, we won’t hesitate to attack you. You come here again and threaten any of them, and we’ll fly to their aid. You hear me? Get out this instant. I won’t warn you again.” He glared at Teikaru unflinching, his voice deep and rattling.
Teikaru sneered at him, but only for a moment. With a roll of his eyes he smirked. “None of you know how to have fun, seriously. I find it sad Kashkie…you’re not even a man anymore. You must have fucked one too many women.”
“You’re one to talk!” Lily hissed, “And watch your mouth with children around!”
“You think I care?” Teikaru laughed, “My boy needs someone to toughen him up! He’s going to wind up weak like the yellow fuzz ball.” He sneered. “You guys think Kashkie is so wonderful and you know nothing about him. He told Casselina he appeared here because of a light. Are you idiots really going to buy that?” He blasted wind at Toby and Casselina before flipping back landing near the edge of the jungle. “You know nothing about him and you treat me like the criminal! This isn’t over!”
Kashkie wiped his mouth growling. “You’re damn right this isn’t over! If you ever hurt any of them or set foot here again I will stop you!”
Teikaru smirked. “What are you gonna do? Smother me with feelings? I look at you and besides a whore all I see is a weakling who can’t even fight anymore. You’re unstable. You think the entire world is out to get you. Everyone better watch out. You’ll take a fit and murder their entire royal family. You’ll make them regret trusting you.” He paused, and as though he had knowledge of the nature of Kashkie’s dreams his eyes gleamed. “Why don’t you go back to the darkness and rip more than just your eyes out this time?” With this, he retreated into the darkness of the woods.
This made Kashkie’s eyes shrink. He had spoken about what he saw in the darkness yes, but not to Teikaru, and he was fairly certain that this was the first time the two were anywhere close to each other since Kashkie had woken up. They certainly had not come within shout distance of each other. His stomach felt even more violently ill.
“That nightmare…it didn’t come from him, but…did he get his power from it? Did they both get their power from something far more sinister? Is this greater evil trying to kill Deannalee and Baralai? Will I ever be strong enough to protect them?”
Feeling his legs shake the world around Kashkie fell away. Casselina and Toby were being helped up. Lily was rocking Baralai and trying to calm down the villagers. Deannalee stood there pulling his arm, but when her hand pressed against his cheek he lurched away. Sweat poured down his face; he ignored it and the blood still trickling from his nose and just stared at her.
“Kashkie?” she asked, speaking slowly. “It’s alright…you’re going to be…”
He swallowed hard before turning and running into the woods. He wasn’t sure, but he registered hearing the villagers call out for him. He wasn’t sure where he was running. So much time had passed since he roamed the jungle alone he could barely remember each path and where they lead to. It was dark, and that only made things harder. He paid the uncertainty no heed; all he knew was he needed to run.
Sitting Baralai down Lily frowned. “Toby let’s go catch him!” The two took off without another word, followed by Deannalee and Casselina in close pursuit. The village was in an uproar. It was so confusing Baralai wasn’t sure what to do. He rubbed his eye; something familiar got his attention, before a hand reached out and grabbed him. The next thing he knew he was looking into the eyes of that man, the one they called his father.
He swallowed hard whimpering. “Please let me go.”
Teikaru sneered. There was no excuse for his son being this much of a wimp. Getting an idea he grinned. “Is that any way to treat your father?” His eyes went dark. “Is it?”
Baralai sniffed shaking his head fast. “I-I’m sorry!”
“Shut up!” Teikaru hissed. “Now you listen. They told us you showed the promise of being the most powerful wielder ever of water. I’ll be damned if that bastard Kashkie is going to be the one to teach you, or your worthless mother. If you want to keep your family safe, all of them, then you had better meet me at the lake for lessons every day. The second you don’t show up, I’ll come back and put Kashkie back in that long sleep, only this time he won’t wake up. Don’t get me started on what I’ll do to your mother and grandmother. Is that clear?”
As frightened as he was Baralai felt brave, and nodded.
Teikaru smirked; “Much better, that’s my son. Still, don’t you dare get any ideas about telling them about this. This is between you and me. You tell your mother you’re going to pick flowers or some other bullshit. I’m going to make you powerful. I’ll make them regret doing what they did to us.” He sat Baralai back down. “You’re going to make me proud. You’ll make everything I’ve done worth it.”
What had he done? Baralai wasn’t sure. It wasn’t what he had done that frightened him. It was Teikaru threatening to hurt Kashkie, his mother, and grandmother that did. He would be brave; he would meet Teikaru at the lake. Maybe if he got powerful, one day he’d be strong enough to defeat his father and protect everyone like Kashkie was trying to do. “I won’t tell…I’ll come tomorrow.”
“Good. Now get out of here.” Teikaru turned and disappeared into the jungle after this. Despite being scared before Baralai felt comforted. He was reminded of wanting to go to that familiar presence, and without another thought to what his father had in store for him, he walked back into the village to find it.
Kashkie curled up beside the Master Jewel. His path through the jungle was long and twisted, trails criss-crossing over themselves before something inside him led him to the Master Jewel. There was a power within it that resonated inside him, in a place so deep he could barely understand it.
He closed his eyes; he felt safe. The image of that person that saved him in the darkness was becoming clearer. He knew now more than ever that Teikaru was wrong; he wouldn’t snap. This was a place Kashkie was safe. He was still depressed though. Toby had no elements to speak of and yet he handled Teikaru with such ease. His memory was still shaky and disconnected in places, but he knew he was meant to be powerful. He knew he was meant to protect Deannalee and Baralai.
How could he do it when he was sick like this? He was in so much pain, and there was no escape. It was something not even the Master Jewel and his friend from the darkness could offer.
He opened his eyes. Deannalee was standing there frowning. “Hey Dee,” he whispered, closing his eyes, sniffing. “I’m fine I’m just…so tired.”
“Do you want to sleep? I’ll take you back to the village,” she knelt down next to him.
“No, I feel better next to the Master Jewel. It’s reacting to something inside of me. It’s calming me down a little,” he swallowed. “I…I think I’ll sleep here.” He paused. “…I’m in so much pain. I’ve…got to keep you both safe, and I…couldn’t do it.” He reached up wiping his eyes.
“Kashkie,” she frowned more, “You’re still getting better. Don’t be so hard on yourself.” She put her hand on his head. “You’re in pain? What…what can I do?”
He looked up at her, his blue eyes completely glassed over. “I can’t…let it happen to you,” he whispered, laying his head down. “I’ll be fine…just, let me be. I’ve learned…the pain will pass, eventually. It has to. Otherwise…I can’t do it.”
Deannalee felt her forehead wrinkle in confusion, her throat tightening steadily as his words sunk in. Kashkie didn’t mind being sick, and he wasn’t frightened of the world like Teikaru insisted. What scared him was not being able to protect her and Baralai. It was heavy bitterness to the point where it was a storm he had to ride out. There was nothing he could do to escape it any sooner than his heart would allow.
She looked around. She felt they were both safe for the time being. Nobody would think to check the altar of the Master Jewel, not for awhile anyway. Looking back at him she smiled, stroking his head gently. She thought about the nights after Teikaru attacked her, and how the presence of that comforting spirit was enough to soothe her pain away so she could sleep. Maybe that’s what Kashkie needed now. Maybe…it would be what helped him feel whole again.
Leaning down she kissed his head gently. She felt him tense up but she didn’t relent, pulling him into her lap carefully keeping them both close to the Master Jewel so it could comfort him. “Dee?” Kashkie murmured, looking up at her, “What are you…”
“What you need now is comfort,” she looked at him smiling. “Don’t you worry about me, or anyone else. You focus on what you’ve got right now. You’ve got the Master Jewel, and I’m here to comfort you. Think about only that. In no time, you’ll be strong again.” She closed her eyes. “I promise you will, because I know you. That’s who you are. You promised me, and I know it’s one you’ll never break, no matter what.”
Kashkie stared at her. Their talk earlier in the day back at the lagoon came floating back into his head. Floating, that reminded him of swimming. He closed his eyes breathing deeply. Again the rest of the world melted away. All that was left were the two of them, the Master Jewel, feelings he couldn’t explain, and the figure from the darkness. He had to keep her safe. He would keep her safe.
If anything, he could throw his body over hers to protect it, and trust whatever power within him caused that promise to burn as brightly as it did, would rise to meet him when the day came that he needed to keep it.
UnLight stepped out of his portal. Fresh out of talking to Shadow on Spirit Island, the emotions from it still stormed wildly inside of him. Part of him appreciated feeling something besides pain dulled out over hundreds of years, and yet he despised it. Feeling something for Shadow, any bit of brotherly love, or even himself, made him weak. He couldn’t afford this.
It was as he said before; he couldn’t afford to walk away, not yet.
“You should have let me come. I’d have enjoyed seeing Shadow get all touchy-feely over the family he walked away from.”
Glancing over his shoulder UnLight saw UnDark standing there leaning against the wall, smirking, and his arms folded across his chest. He was waiting for an explanation; clearly he had not spied on their conversation from afar.
Well UnLight had told Shadow he made sure to be careful. He was more fortunate than careful. Perhaps UnDark spent time terrorizing people or the Malevils under his command.
UnLight rolled his eyes shaking his head. “You know that idiot. Hates Father but spews tears from that bleeding heart of his for the rest of the family. He had no clue about that missing entry anyway.” UnLight sat down in a chair rubbing his forehead.
“As if he would,” UnDark mused, grinning. “The entire point of telling him was just to mess with his head you know. Scare him. If Father could murder half his family and lock away the remainder, what hope do Shadow and those pathetic children of Arandor have?” Crossing the room UnDark came up behind the chair putting his hands on UnLight’s shoulders. “We, dear brother, cannot lose. Pretty soon, Father’s preliminary army will be ready, and we can destroy those children. The battle will be won, and now Shadow will have even more guilt crushing down on him. Ah…this was such a brilliant idea you had; for once I’m envious.”
Eyeing him UnLight replied, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day you know.”
With a cackle UnDark pulled back. “Indeed but sometimes a broken clock is better company than you. It makes less noise and is much easier to reason with,” he grinned evilly. “Still, I’m satisfied UnLight, maybe even a little proud.” He paused. “Just don’t get used to it. Like you saving me in Malahdoran, this doesn’t change anything.” He strolled out of the room after this.
UnLight stared at the doorway. Holding out his fist he uncurled his fingers revealing a small jungle flower from Spirit Island in the palm of his hand. He still loved the beautiful elements of the world, and images like this, along with Mukot’s and UnDark’s harsh rhetoric gnawed away at his heart.
It made Shadow’s love and forgiveness all the more appealing. He frowned to himself; how could Shadow be so inviting after UnLight contributed to the death of Arandor and the ruin of Malahdoran? Maybe it was a trap, and yet, as was the case with Shadow knowing he could trust UnLight, UnLight could sense that Shadow wasn’t being deceitful. He truly wanted to save him, offering him a way out. He was offering him the chance of a real family, a way out of this miserable existence.
But he couldn’t walk away, and now Shadow knew why. He didn’t tell Shadow about Mukot’s family to crush him; it was to show the Dark Elemental why UnLight would rather suffer alone.
Grabbing a book UnLight thumbed through the pages. Over time, he had pressed several flowers, leaves, and even clovers within the pages. He preserved them not just out of memory, but just in case Mukot won this war and the beautiful world was destroyed forever. He dreaded a world like that, but if he had no choice but to accept it, he wanted to save a piece of it, no matter how small.
In his heart, UnLight knew that Arandor only had good intentions. He fell in love with the world just as UnLight had. Still, knowing what happened to Arandor, and what being careless set into motion, UnLight knew he couldn’t afford to behave in that manner. He purposefully avoided Spirit Island until that very night, not wanting to draw any more of a negative presence than was there already.
It killed him; he knew what was happening to Deannalee, he felt it, and many times wanted to go and stop it, but he didn’t, for he knew he would just draw out the same darkness that crippled Kashkie. It was instances like this that made him hate Arandor for not having restraint.
But at the same time he couldn’t blame him. At least Arandor had the freedom, and the courage, to do as his heart bid him. All UnLight could do was play out the cards he was dealt, and try to save as many people has he could.
Pressing the flower neatly between some empty pages he closed the book sighing. “I told him what I did to empower him, UnDark. You don’t see it, and I doubt you ever will, but the only way to fix all the wrong that has been done, is for Shadow to fulfill his purpose. He has to do what he was born to do.” Looking outside UnLight sighed. In his heart there was always only one solution. He had to let him know he was on Shadow’s side, while at the same time making him as angry as possible. That was why he told Shadow about Mukot’s family, and even indirectly upsetting him over poor Agatha was a means to this end. He had to remind Shadow what was at stake. They couldn’t risk Shadow backing down at the wrong moment; there was no room for error or leniency.
“He has to win, and to do this, he has to ensure…that we all die.”