"The Wars of Light and Darkness"
By: Jade Lightning, a.k.a. ReverseTheEclipse
"The First Interlude"
Verse Thirty-Four: “Shadow of Laughter”
The birth of a baby is always a joyful time for new parents, especially for their first born, but Shadow knew it was also a tiring one. He had seen enough of them over his long life to know full well this truth. Thaileon eventually cuddled up to his beloved, baby Hidama nestled safely between them. Thaileon’s mother went home after both of his sisters had had a chance to see their new nephew.
Shadow lingered; when Faeron was having his children his father took time to stay near the home while everyone rested, watching over the villagers as they prepared for the celebratory morning feast, keeping a watchful eye over the Master Emerald from afar. Shadow did this in Faeron’s stead for his son. Karadin was there alone that night; he had offered for Armundae to spend the night with his wife. Aerealei was not long from birth herself.
A faint curl that vaguely resembled a smile twisted Shadow’s lips, or attempted to. Thinking about Aerealei’s unborn tickled him in a way that he could scarcely identify. Like with Deannalee’s baby, Baralai, Shadow could sense the aura coming from Aerealei, and it caused this fluttery feeling, but it was fleeting.
Before the knot in his stomach could force him to frown he remembered the hope he had for Armundae and Aerealei. This worked for a second, as his eyes drifted to the new parents just beyond his reach. They were further away than he realized. Thinking about not saving them, having to raise that little boy and his eventual brother in their place…
This was a terrible place for his mind to settle this late into the night. He reminded himself of the horrible way Arandor died and how justice had to be done, and that made him feel a little better. If he wasn’t so comfortable with the thought of death it wouldn’t have worked at all. As sad as it would be for these children, they would reunite with their parents, and the ones that died would have immediate peace and comfort. He was so at peace with something he felt he would never experience; it was the only thing that allowed for him to feel any joy for moments like these. Otherwise he would never have survived them.
Despite all this he felt the knot creeping up to his throat twisting it up tightly to the point he could barely swallow. He hadn’t cried for a long time, and each time he did he was so unfamiliar with the practice it almost frightened him. His face felt hot; he shut his eyes forcing a deep breath in his mouth banishing the knot, at least a little. He looked back at the moon. Locking on to the constants of the world was the only other comfort he had left to him.
He wondered, briefly, how one would explain to Arandor, or even Shadow, just the type of journey they were going to take, how their lives would end, and how they would affect countless others. Would they have stayed in Radiant Castle? Would they have had the capacity to understand the repercussions of their actions? Would Arandor have found a way to stay alive for his children? Would they have stopped Mukot long ago? Could they have?
“No,” Shadow thought to himself, his eyes closing, “The love in Arandor’s heart could not be contained. Love comes with everything, including pain. He would have risked everything for it. As naïve as everyone thinks he was, and perhaps he was indeed, this was the kind of moment he breathed for. Even if Thaileon and Laryllia only have a few years with their children, they will have left the story of their love in the history of the world. Pain is fleeting. It scars but it fades. Love lingers. It never leaves, and it doesn’t require a scar to remind you that it is there inside you. You feel it the most when you need it, just like I do now.”
The Dark Elemental looked over at the slumbering family. The sky was starting to turn gray with the approach of dawn. Shadow felt his ears tilt; he heard the sound of tiny coos coming from the bundle of blankets between them. They weren’t sweet; they were the kind that preceded discomfort. The little prince was rousing from his slumber, and was still not at all happy being outside of his mother’s womb, what used to be his home and place of safety.
Shadow could understand. He wasn’t born in the same way, but even he had a safe place he liked to retreat to when the world weighed down large and hopelessly heavy upon him. He wasn’t sure why but he walked over to the bed and knelt down beside it. Poking his tiny head out from the blankets Hidama rubbed his eyes. Sure enough, the cooing was melding into whimpers. He couldn’t hear his mother’s heart beat. He was no longer being rocked by her breathing. It was an unfamiliar place and he didn’t like it.
Glancing at Laryllia and Thaileon he quickly gauged whether or not he could do this safely without waking them. He decided it was possible; he had done it long ago while Sutei-Midoka slumbered between Kashoku and Mitsukai, but for some reason he was still nervous about it. As he carefully scooped up the newborn prince his thoughts lingered for a moment. He had never told Arandor how many nights he spent watching him sleep, keeping him and his family safe from harm.
Two-thousand years later and so little had changed. It still felt the same.
Shadow looked at Hidama. He felt tingles riddling his body in an almost unpleasant manner. “Seems…you’re not the only one uncomfortable right now,” he whispered. He relished time spent with children; in their innocence he could speak freely and not have to worry about what they thought, for they could scarcely hope to understand what he meant anyway. Still, he knew what Hidama needed now, and it wasn’t sympathy. “Shh,” he soothed, “It’s alright…Hinsei Hidama…Rodnara.”
He bit his lip. That last name that the family chose for themselves, Arandor’s name written backwards, it always stung him. The echidnas never made the connection; for all their intelligence they never understood the last name, and why Arandor’s children took it. It was a silent tribute to him, their father. It was this lack of understanding that would be their undoing.
Hidama sniffed and this woke Shadow from his thoughts; they tended to seize control of his consciousness and often times he would zone out completely. Kashkie would take this opportunity to poke him or take silly pictures with him. Hidama was much kinder. He cooed in a sad tone, still on the verge of wailing but giving Shadow the opportunity to prevent it. As his ruby red eyes locked with Hidama’s baby blues, a color Shadow already knew were his permanent shade, a slight twinkle reappeared in the red ones he bore. He had avoided coming near any of Arandor’s descendants for nearly two millennia. He only ever watched them from afar. He was quite certain the last ones he held were Arandor’s grandchildren.
He noticed his breathing had gotten deeper has his pulse elevated. He realized the last time he held a baby it was Kashkie, and his panic reached a sickening level. Hidama’s parents weren’t dead as Kashkie’s were that night, but the circumstances were alarmingly similar. Once again he was holding a tiny baby, just on the cusp of life, one that was ultimately in Shadow’s hands, and it was cheating him out of his family. It was a process that would repeat itself, and for a fleeting moment Shadow wondered if he would keep down his dinner. He wondered if he would bolt out into the night with Hidama in tow and take another fit, his body violently rebelling and out-right attacking him for holding such vile feelings inside his heart.
Shadow swallowed hard. He realized he felt alright. Unlike Kashkie he knew Hidama would get the chance to know his parents. He wasn’t taking a newborn from his parents, giving them no choice but to say goodbye to their precious baby as death came swiftly to them just moments later. He would never forget the tears in the eyes of Kashkie’s mother, droplets that barely had a chance to trickle over her bittersweet smile. Her husband did not understand. She knew her son would live.
“Hidama will live too. I will make certain of it,” Shadow thought. That was when he realized why he wasn’t panicking. Kashkie could never remember his family, and he turned out alright in Kalak’s care. It turned out that he too had influenced Kashkie, although he hadn’t intended for it. Children were resilient, and though it would hurt them as they grew, they would come to accept their fates, and take comfort in knowing they were loved, and how much they were loved. Shadow would never let them go a day without knowing this, just as he assured Kashkie of the same.
His ears twitched. Those tingles continued to sting his appendages, and they spiked again, although the sting dissipated far quicker. He looked down and saw Hidama had settled simply from being held. He grasped a tuft of Shadow’s fur in his tiny fist, snuggling into Shadow’s chest. His coos were sleepy and gentle, and yet the prince was very much awake. This floated in Shadow’s head, memories of Sutei-Midoka waking up during the night, feeling playful for a little while, sometimes needing a cloth diaper changed, other times just needing some of his mother’s milk, before drifting back off to sleep. This was one of those times he just wanted comfort, something to tickle his tiny mind and put his spirit at ease.
It was this special time being cradled close to a parent or family member that let him know he was safe. The world could be scary, but he would always have someone to protect him, even if the only form of this protection was love left tucked in his heart, just a memory. It was again similar to Kashkie’s struggle, having to relearn everything he knew, and coming to realize the world was safe. It was the bond he had with Deannalee, Casselina, and Baralai, and even Shadow, that reminded him of this. The love never left him, even if the torture he experienced shoved it down past the reach of recognition and feeling. He retrieved it, and from that day forward, he recovered. He was still recovering, but in the end love saved him.
It would save Hinsei Hidama as well, in a way Shadow, or even his own parents, never could on their own. Their affection was more powerful than any other gesture, and if they passed away, it would have to be enough. It would be enough. It didn’t serve to stop Shadow to want to save them; he would try, but his mind constantly circled back to comforting thoughts to relax him. He knew if he was nervous or shaky Hidama would sense it. He also knew he was no good to anyone if he let his worries consume him. It was a risk he couldn’t afford to take.
He tilted his head, letting worrisome thoughts of the future fade away, disappearing to the same place those unpleasant, stabbing tingles fled to, giving his fingers and toes some relief. He watched as Hidama studied the tuft of fur. It was similar to Thaileon’s, which Shadow theorized was why he was so immediately drawn to it. Hidama continued to make those sweet, tiny noises, moving his fist, tugging the fur on occasion. He eventually let out a little giggle; something had tickled him enough. He eventually looked up at Shadow, staring up at him with his big eyes.
“What?” Shadow asked. It was all he could think to say. He never knew what to say to Kashkie either. He remembered both Thaileon and Armundae saying he would be a wonderful father. He shook his head. “Yeah right,” he muttered, “I should horse whip both of them for being so foolish. If they could only see me now.” His ears twitched as he heard another giggle. He looked down just fast enough to see Hidama tuck his head in, as though trying to hide what he was doing. Shadow felt a small smirk fight to turn up the corners of his lips. “Stop that,” he whispered, “I saw that you know.”
Hidama’s eyes sparkled, large and innocent as they were, and they caught Shadow off guard. He tilted his head staring at the infant. He truly did not know how to behave around one. He tried to remember how he acted with Sutei-Midoka and his sisters. Being a father was easy for Arandor; he took to it like it was nothing. Shadow, on the other hand, felt rubbish at it. He heard Hidama giggle again, only to tuck his head in, trying to hide behind Shadow’s tuft of fur shyly when he saw those ruby eyes fall on his face.
“What am I doing that you find so amusing?” Shadow whispered. In response Hidama cooed again. “You’re trying to tell me something,” the Dark Elemental continued, speaking slower, “But…for everything I’ve seen…I have…no clue.” He laughed miserably, if one could call it a laugh, to himself. “I’m…not sure what anyone sees in me, to be frank.” He glanced at Hidama. “I can tell you this because you won’t try and walk me through the reasons knowing full well I still won’t be able to grasp them.”
The baby echidna blinked at him, as though trying desperately to understand and form an answer. Innocence won out. He squealed softly, squirming as he tried to kick his tiny feet, giggling happily. Shadow felt his heart flutter again; what had he said? That struggle to form a smirk dissipated, but not out of sadness. Something far more rare blossomed on his face; a warm, genuine smile.
“Look at you,” he whispered, still speaking slowly. He felt another tingling sensation ripple through him, but this time it was warm, almost as though it was there to soothe the hurts of the sharp assault from before. He felt his arms tighten ever so gently, swaddling the baby, as they started to rock. Shadow walked his way back to the door of the home, standing in the doorway. He didn’t want the laughter to wake his parents too soon, and yet he couldn’t imagine a nicer feeling than waking up to a baby.
“It…would be nice, sleeping in a warm bed for a change, hearing the sounds of a little one in the morning, instead of the hollow silence that gives way to the fabricated dreams my mind creates as it rests.” Shadow stopped himself. The only woman he ever felt that close to was Lulabei, and he had locked his heart with a key he entrusted to her spirit. Something like would only happen with her blessing. This was something he couldn’t explain to the boys. His eyes drifted from the moon back to Hidama, who had settled but was still tugging at Shadow’s fur, greatly amused by it, before it had the chance to tickle Hidama’s nose. He abruptly sneezed, blinking repeatedly, before letting out another squeal.
Shadow’s smile strengthened. It would be nice. Maybe…if Lulabei would consider it, he would allow himself to as well. Still, he couldn’t let his dreams get in the way of what he had to do. His entire focus for the time being had to be Arandor’s legacy, these little ones with so much riding on their shoulders. He continued to watch him, tilting his head as Hidama dared to bring the fur close to his face again, this time rubbing his cheek against it. He cooed so sweetly as he pulled himself to it; he had the strength for it. He was an echidna baby after all. It must have felt so soft as he burrowed his face into it, yawning as his eyes closed. His free hand rested near his face, balled up in a tiny fist. He eventually let his lips encircle the thumb, sucking it gently as his breathing relaxed. He was ready to sleep again.
Shadow’s heart fluttered. He eased himself down carefully, sitting on the ground, letting his body lean against the wall of the house and his head press against the wall. He had slept in far more uncomfortable positions, and yet that wasn’t really sleep. Usually he just shut his mind down, a small part of it remaining conscious so he could wake in an instant. He had slept a little more often in the years that Kashkie was with him, but that kind of sleep was still elusive. Generally, his mind was so consumed by rushing thoughts he could never surrender it to dreams.
Something about this little one and the tiny heart beating in his chest brought Shadow a comfort he didn’t think he would ever receive.
“You don’t have to explain anything, Hinsei Hidama,” Shadow murmured, “And that’s the entire point. Like love, you have your entire and complete effect, simply by being, simply by existing. I suppose…using that logic, anything could happen. Perhaps, that’s why all you need is a simple presence or comfort, to let you know everything will be alright. You do not fret or worry about how things will go. That is why I know Arandor and I would have come no matter what, for we once knew carelessness and freedom, innocence and security. I can hardly remember it, but it is irrefutable, and if this is a certainty, then, most certainly,” he yawned, his voice trailing off, “I can make it through one night, allowing myself this small fragment of happiness.”
He had a dream. As the pale light of the morning crept into the sky, this safe haven created a place for him; it was a place where Hidama was fully grown, having this same precious experience with his own child. Shadow could not remember faces, but vaguely recalled Hidama, looking so much like his father, down to that same grin flashed in his direction, looking right at him. He had no grasp on words or even cognitive thought, but one feeling could not escape him. It was warmth, but it was something else, and that’s when he realized Hidama wasn’t looking directly at him, but instead just over his left shoulder.
Shadow remembered glancing back and catching a glimpse of something, but his dreams betrayed him and kept this hidden. He would spend this entire slumber trying to figure out what Hidama was trying to tell him. All he could do was chase the feeling, a feeling of unusual warmth, and love beyond a measure he had ever known, or felt he’d ever get to realize, even in a dream.
He remembered it then. Something even rarer than a smile.
He remembered, the sound of his laughter.
“In an uncertain world,
A safe place remains.
It lingers inside,
When everything wanes.
A memory resides,
In your heart ever after,
Tickled with warmth,
By a shadow of laughter.”
Far beyond the reaches of Starlynn Galaxy, near the edge of the universe as they knew it, the Guardian of Chastity, the tragic but greatly loved Agatha, came on an errand. She and Kalak knew they were going to need help, and the best place to start was as close to the problem as they could get. With Beledin, the leader of Kalak’s order in a dark place as far as his mind, and completely against getting involved with this impending war, there was only one other source close enough to Mukot, and friendly enough, for them to turn to.
And this was only a possibility. He wasn’t on good terms with anyone, this Guardian, and it was because he was almost more responsible for the problems at hand than Mukot was. He lived alone and in shame, exiled by both force and by choice. Even if Mukot hadn’t enforced it, the Guardian here would not be doing anything differently. He was in a position where he felt there was nothing he could do, and while Agatha had hopes that this was untrue, she knew this wouldn’t be easy.
She had to try for Shadow’s sake. He could not do this alone. She hoped that her history with this Guardian would help her. She had not seen them since she was released from her torture. He looked on sadly, unable to keep eye contact with her for more than a second, just long enough to realize it was happening before he averted his eyes. She knew why he said nothing. It was the only option he had. She understood. He could not accept it. All these years later, and he carried such great shame.
It was even worse now knowing what his work, something he did out of love and pride, had caused; it had caused even more pain that reached farther than anything Mukot could have done on his own, and he hated himself for it, just like he hated himself for not being there for her.
She felt herself smile. She hoped, if anything, she could help him feel better. That would be enough for her.
Agatha approached the small house, small when compared to the homes they used to live in, used to, back when she knew the occupant as almost a different person entirely, and she herself was hardly like her old self anymore. The planet was dead, but wasn't a fiery, empty hell like Talmor was. It was more like an icy cold moon, when before it used to be full of life like Shadow and Arandor’s planet.
She kept her hood up even though she knew he was more than aware of her appearance. He was Fate itself. He was there when it first changed her.
Taking a deep breath she knocked on the door gingerly. While she waited she glanced back. A giant black hole was alarmingly close to this little planet, one that was called Luzet by its only resident. She could feel a heavy, but immense power from within it. She knew who it was.
He was one of only a very few who could survive such a torrent. His chains were that powerful; chains that bound him, now become his weapon, the very fabric that held him together.
“Poor Omega,” Agatha whispered silently, before turning her attention to the door. It was pulled back just enough so their eyes could meet, although hers could not be seen. He had one of his green eyes left, the same color as his mother’s were, and yet she felt her muscles tighten in her back when she noticed that bloody glass eye for the first time. It was a blind eye, but at the time it was all Serpent could explain to Mukot to do.
Though his brother had repaired his eye, it was only after he destroyed the original in the first place, and then afterwards, he banished him to this frozen prison. Serpent was hardly the same anymore.
“…I was wondering who would bother coming out here,” Serpent whispered. One could tell he hardly used his voice. “I knew it wouldn’t be Omega.”
Agatha felt herself frown. She wondered if Serpent had truly forgotten that Omega was his father, or simply by the family being broken, he felt there wasn’t one anymore.
“Serpent…you do realize who Lord Omega is…don’t you?” she asked.
His green eye focused on her, as though he really had to try and think about it for a moment. A soft sigh escaped him as he pulled the door open for her. “I…try not to remember what isn’t around anymore. I…know he’s important, Agatha, that’s about it. It’s too painful to try and think about why.”
She nodded slowly. Following him inside she saw him stop and look at her as he closed the door. She shook her head. “I’ll…leave the hood up, if you don’t mind.” She giggled softly. “I…know you already know but, I don’t want to make you sad.”
Serpent continued to stare blankly. “…He’s disfigured both of us, but you worst of all,” he whispered. He turned walking into his study. “Whatever makes you feel better Agatha. My feelings on the matter don’t make a difference. I…let it happen after all. I stood by and buried my mother and sister and tried to pick up the pieces of my father before he was banished and chained.” He glanced at her sneering to himself. “I should be made to feel terrible, but…not at your expense.”
“Serpent,” Agatha whispered. She felt her chest tighten; she didn’t want anyone to feel bad about her fate, even Mukot, for she knew the boy before he became corrupted and destroyed not only his family but his entire order. She just wanted to bring everyone that was left together again, and she knew that Shadow winning the war against Mukot was the only way, even if this meant Mukot had to die. It was likely the only way he could be saved, as awful as it was. Serpent knew it too. He knew other things, being the Guardian of Fate. He would know things that would be essential to Shadow’s efforts to win this war. She had to ask him for help, no matter how painful it was.
Realizing there was no way to mend the hurting in Serpent’s heart over this matter, she let the subject drop. She never knew what to say to people. What had happened to her honestly didn’t hurt her to think about, but nobody was ever convinced, so she let it go. Walking into the study after him she saw what looked like an effort to rebuild his library. A fireplace with blazing logs divided a burgeoning collection of books on either side. A table in the center of the room was covered with scattered pages, materials for binding books, and ink and pens for writing. She wondered if he would return to their old home for the supplies. He would need plenty of them.
“Are you…trying to recover your collection?” she asked softly.
The Guardian of Fate glanced at her, seeming to have calmed down a little from before. He was pouring tea for the two of them. “Yes,” he said finally, walking over. “Obviously Mukot gave me no time to pack when I was leaving.” He paused, sitting down setting a cup down for Agatha. “I take comfort knowing UnLight has them, and maybe…one day Shadow will too. …There’s information there that might even save UnDark…might, but,” he sighed, rubbing his temple, “I don’t like his chances, as much as I don’t relish my brother’s fate.”
Agatha smiled some. “Only you would have a mind to remember everything you’ve ever written.” She paused, taking the tea. “I’d love to find out what we can do for UnLight and UnDark but…we have to try and prioritize.” She paused, sipping her tea just barely before sitting it down. She could have no distractions. “Serpent I know this will be difficult for you, but…Kalak and I need your help. We need you to help us with this war. I know you think you can do nothing, but you can. You have to think of Shadow. He might be our only hope now that Arandor is…well,” she sighed softly. She just made it that much more difficult. “Please Serpent. Shadow’s going to need help. I know you can tell me who he should be looking for. Mukot is going to attack again, we know it. He has to have help. He and Kashkie can’t do it alone.”
She asked him to think about Shadow, and to this Serpent sighed, shutting his eyes tightly putting his hand over the bad one, clutching at the scars that would never heal. He had helped Shadow escape. Of the three, he felt Shadow had the best chance, and he had managed to dodge Mukot’s wrath that time. All of them knew Shadow was the only hope they had.
He realized he couldn’t abandon him, not like he had UnLight and UnDark…and even Omega and Mukot. Not just them…there was also…her.
Growling softly he slammed his tea down on the table causing it to rattle. Agatha flinched and the hissing from within her hood rose in level for a second, but quickly subsided. Serpent turned to the flickering fireplace, the glow reflecting in both eyes but unnaturally in the glass one. He took a deep breath closing them briefly. “It shouldn’t be up to him to finish this. We, Mukot’s broken family, we should be the one stopping this storm, but we cannot, or do not.” He glanced back at her. “I’m powerless here, but you are not, you never were Agatha. If you can give some advice to Shadow for me, then I would be…most glad.”
Agatha felt herself smile. Part of him was still there. Gone, but not completely lost. “Of course I will, oh Serpent thank you.”
Serpent sighed softly, looking back at the fire. “Don’t thank me, really, I owe this to the boy.” He paused; “The boy Armundae, he has a soul that mirrors his own, a man named Domino Bertier. He will encounter a girl that mirrors Armundae’s beloved, Aerealei. This woman, named Neferine, she will bear him two sons, just as Aerealei will have twin boys of her own.” He glanced back at her. “Mukot will target the Bertier children. Whether Domino and Neferine manage to save their sons before they’re captured, or get away entirely remains to be seen. The important thing here is the Bertiers will become powerful allies. I do believe that the boys will evade capture regardless of what Mukot does, but the sooner Shadow can find them, the better. …They shall go by the names of the highest and lowest points of the sky. The universe lies between them.”
Nodding slowly Agatha replied, “That’s very helpful. We had no idea about them at all.”
“You wouldn’t,” he looked back at the fire, “Arandor’s soul is far from dormant. Already he chooses those that will touch the lives of his children, protect them, and even further the bloodline. He seeks out those that will marry his children. He chose Aerealei for Armundae, Laryllia for Thaileon, and Deannalee well…,” Serpent closed his eyes, “That one…Arandor did not want.”
“Serpent?” Agatha asked when he didn’t speak.
Serpent bit his lip. He was bound by his element not to finish his thoughts. Like what happened to Agatha it was just too painful to think about. Taking a deep breath he continued, “Arandor is looking after Deannalee, through Kashkie. Her fate will be whatever way best makes up for what she has endured. It is beyond our control. Arandor he…dislikes a lot of what has happened, and what will happen. Just know he is acting of his own will now, and is choosing people. He’s chosen the Bertiers. He’s chosen a homeless boy to marry one of his daughters. He’s chosen an artist without her real parents for one of his sons. He’s even found someone for Shadow, although I’m sure he’ll resist. She’s a white bat.” He glanced at Agatha offering a faint grin. “Shadow will love this one. We all know…his feelings towards them. But…,” the grin faded as he looked back at the fire, “Arandor had a way of mending hurts between people with that cheeky personality. All will work out for the better, I feel, given time.”
Feeling her heart flutter with everything he had just said Agatha giggled softly. “I knew Arandor was coming back to us. He must feel so terrible, not being able to help. He’s doing everything he can for those of us left to win the fight.”
“Mmm,” Serpent shook his head. “I…can identify with the boy, in that way. …He saved Shadow, and the warmth in his heart is so strong even now, it still holds the faintest sway over the Seed of Light. It might be just that little bit that allows UnDark to express care for something beyond himself, and that’s the only route that has any hope of saving him. That same forgiveness is what allows Shadow to want to save UnLight, even putting himself at risk for the effort. Arandor may feel he caused a lot of the problem, but really, his recklessness, the recklessness of his love for people, is the foundation for the solution.” He glanced at Agatha. “His children must be protected. All of the chosen souls in the world will do little good if anything happens to any of them. Remember this well. Our fates all hinge on the folly of this one, the son of Kalak. For all of our power and former glory, we are nothing without the love he had to give.”
Agatha nodded and rose from her chair adjusting her cloak so it fit better. Serpent had given her valuable information, and she was inspired and that much more eager to go deliver it. As she turned to leave Serpent cut his good eye back at her. “The girl, the one he calls the Daughter of Light. He has no idea where she is, does he?”
She looked back, stunned. She hadn’t asked about that. She asked Serpent for advice, where Shadow could look to for help. She had never once mentioned the plan that rested within Arandor’s two bloodlines, as the secret of it was their only safety net. Of course he knew. He was Fate.
“He doesn’t,” Agatha confirmed with a nod, “He’s…had a lot on his plate with two islands to juggle, and Kashkie getting sick. He knows he needs to look for her soon. …You wouldn’t happen to…”
Serpent smirked, running his hand back over his mask. “I am Fate obviously I would know where she wound up.” He paused, chuckling softly, “I didn't create him. I have no sway over his intelligence and yet…I know his is vast. He could find her on his own. It might take him awhile, but he’ll rise above the challenge as he always does. However, he’s been given more than he should have ever had to bear.” He looked back at the fire. “He needs to seek out a wealthy family. They have the family name, Chamberlain.” He glanced back at her. “She’s a young girl, early teens, and she’s already met the boy that will become the father. He has the last name Rose.”
Agatha felt happiness swirl up in her chest. This was more than she could have hoped for. “Oh…Serpent that’s wonderful. This will help so much. I’ll go tell him and Kalak right now.” She paused and felt herself smile. “Serpent…you see? You helped right there. Don’t feel you’re useless. You’re doing all you can, not just through this, but by looking after Lord Omega, and just…not losing hope.”
The Guardian of Fate stared at her blankly. The little fire he had turned to ashes, and he turned away. “That’s all well and good…but don’t forget Agatha my dear. Half the reason everything is so bad, including Arandor’s death, is my fault alone, and here I sit. Nothing I do is worth any sort of nobility, or apology for my sins. I can only pray Shadow, the one thing I actually did right, can save us all, and give us the fate I'm yearning for, a future where my brother is free and the promise of a bright future is a certainty.”
There was a silence for several moments. Agatha could feel the pain just pouring off Serpent’s soul through the tone in his voice and the words. She tried to think of something to say to make it better but realized he wasn’t coming off this admission. She walked up to Serpent hugging him from behind gently. His body didn’t tense up but he did hold his breath for a brief second before he let his lungs relax. He placed a hand on hers where they latched together around his abdomen. He closed his eyes. He could remember the cat with the snow white fur and pink hair, beautiful pink rose eyes, and that shy but bright smile. He remembered her sister, her twin. He remembered his sister. He also remembered…her.
The one he truly loved.
But those years were gone. In the end, he could save none of them.
“Be safe…Agatha,” he opened his eyes exhaling slowly. “I pray that…if anyone is to find justice, and any sense is to be made out of any of this…,” he glanced back, “That Mercy finds you first.”
She looked up at him. He could faintly see her eyes, no longer that beautiful pink, but a sickening red shade, and yet he knew she was smiling. “Mercy comes to those that suffer. I’m not suffering, not that much to beg she see me first,” she giggled softly. “Mercy will come to see us all Serpent. Just don’t give up. I know you won’t,” she paused, putting her gloved hand on his face, “Because I know you can see it.”
Serpent didn’t reply, but after a few moments he pulled free from Agatha’s grasp, turning and reaching through the shadow of the hood. She gasped as it caught her off guard. Serpent’s hand found her face, and at the same time he felt a tiny pair of fangs sink into his flesh.
He didn’t flinch.
Rubbing her cheekbone with his thumb he shook his head. “I see…something Agatha.” He stared right where her eyes were, before leaning his head against hers, taking a deep breath as he felt the tiny fangs release their grip once he was completely still. “The future I see for you, I want the most of all. I assure you…I will do everything I can, not only for you, but for Arandor and Shadow, UnLight and UnDark, my father…,” he pulled back walking back to the fireplace leaning against the hearth with his back to her, “And for the family I simply could not save.”
Agatha’s eyes caught a trickle of blood leaking from his hand. She knew no snake venom could take one of them down, not in such a small amount, so that wasn’t a concern. Even if it was, it hardly mattered.
They had to win. Shadow had to win this war if there was to be any justice. She understood how Serpent felt now. It was a useless feeling, having to sit by and wait for something to happen when all you want is to fix it immediately and all on your own. It wasn’t fair to Medula and Nienor. It wasn’t fair to Omega, or Mukot, or Agatha and her sister. It wasn’t fair to Arandor or Shadow. It wasn’t fair to the tiny baby boy born on Angel Island the night before. It wasn’t fair to Mukot.
To win the war would never make anything right, but it would bring justice and some sense to everything that went wrong. From there, it was up to everyone left, to try to make things right, by making the future as best as they could.
This was why Serpent helped her. This was why Serpent dragged Omega around and fought with blood and tears to keep his father’s heart beating. This was why Agatha gave no thought to her fate. It was why Shadow kept opening his eyes in the morning. It was why little Hinsei Hidama was born. It was why UnLight continued to question his faith. It was why UnDark had calmer moments that nobody else ever saw. It was why Arandor, his soul still in fragments and heavy with the weight of unending agony, fought with whatever strength he had left, to make sure they all had the strength to continue. It was why he had already forgiven Mukot, and even had plans for him. Like Deannalee, he offered every prayer he could for the happiness of those that suffered.
They were fates Serpent didn’t like to think about. He didn’t want to get his hopes up, but like Agatha, he knew.
They fought, so the future could make sense of the past, and make every hurt and tear, the shadows of laughter and smiles in days to come.