The Antiphon Arc
Why does he look like a wolf? I remember so many stories about wolves. Most of them were scary. Some people think of them as noble creatures. This one has a person’s face and he’s staring right at me. Why is he staring at me? I think he wants to say something to me. It’s all a blur, my mind. Everything’s a blur, yesterday, today…all of them have become a smudge of incoherent images. Wait. I can hear something…is he trying to talk to me? But he’s not moving his lips…so, how do I know it’s him? I just…know.
“Girl, spirit companion, you have come to this place. But your thread has not been cut, the line still continues. So, I will tell you this. Everything perpetuates itself, causes become effects and the cycle is never ending. The tragedy will continue…the hatred will linger on, until there is a change. Until someone decides to stop it, to halt the wheel. Listen well, Esha, your cord of life will soon take you away, however try to remember this: get their sacred objects. That is all. Leave the rest up to destiny.”
The wolf man stops talking, his blue, purplish eyes shining on me. Not in malice…no…there is no malice…only concern, wisdom and…care. “Tell me your name...” I find myself asking. The wolf creature pauses briefly, staring at me with an intense look.
“It’s Zaide,” he says. “Tell Audas…it was Zaide.”
I want to look around, to try see where I am, but it’s all a haze. Like my mind, and my thoughts, the scenery around me is all unclear. Then, there’s a jolt, coming from inside me. Why? Another jolt comes and I feel something rushing, like the time the water overflowed in the sink. The gushing, splashing sound. There’s a beat. A powerful resounding drum that I’ve heard before. Yes, it’s the beating of my heart. Out of swirling twilight, colors blend and shake, spinning to an extended tune that plays backwards and I know…there’s a bright light…its flashing becoming more as I come in, coming in again, I did this before yes, the crying feeling, the knowing feeling, the one that brings about birth…my birth again though I never died here again in the world again the world again.
Shari was focusing. She didn’t even know if she could accomplish what she was attempting; sending pulsing warmth from her inner manna, flowing out of her into the inert body of her friend. For some reason, she could see something that wasn’t there before. Esha’s body had no light coming from it when she’d found it. She pulled the wooden shard from her stomach, staring in horror at the amount of blood that had already pooled on the floor about her. But what horrified her most was…there was no light coming from Esha’s body. She could always see light around people…different hues and glows, rainbows passing her on the streets. But Esha’s had gone out. She lay her down and instead of CPR, she just placed her hands on her chest. It happened involuntarily. Shari’s prana just started flowing into her, she could see it. Yellow, golden hearthfire colors pouring forth into Esha and around her, surrounding her in a corona. The energy kept flowing, she knew it was filling her…seeping into her wounds…into the cracks in her energy field and body. Sealing them, smoothing them over. And her eyes opened…and Shari took her in her arms…tears spilling down her face to see her friend alive.
Hanging suspended above the misty ground of the intermediate realm, Audas was amazed by the being before him. It was about three times his size, wings spread out so that he could see their entire span. Its yellow eyes that were traced with red veins stared down at him. Audas couldn’t figure out that expression. Was it condescension? Arrogance? Whatever it was, the creature spoke. “We finally meet, Audas. I don’t believe we’ve been properly introduced. My name is Tagathis, though you’d be more familiar with my old name…Devanda.”
Audas already knew that the time for words was at an end. Tagathis was not a being to be reasoned with. There was no need for debate here. However, he would need assistance. Clutching at the place where the shark’s tooth was in the real world, it had become a sapphire gem. He took it in his hands and recited an incantation. A glow formed within the gem’s heart and it began to grow. It kept getting larger, and the glow took on its true form. It resembled a wolf, and as the glow receded, its features could be seen. The wolf bearing a man’s face appeared between Audas and Tagathis. Tagathis peered at the creature, recognition dawning on him. “So you have come, Zaide.”
The wolf man, Zaide, who was also Audas’s spirit guardian, raised an eyebrow slightly as he spoke, “Tagathis. Have you finally reached the end that you sought? Do you really think that everything you’ve done will help you achieve your goal?”
“Is that jealousy I detect my friend?” responded Tagathis. “Could it be that you too, would like to ascend to the next stage of accomplishment with me? But you are too docile, too servile. You never wanted to attempt the presumably impossible. To ascend to the heavens, and bring about a new age of enlightenment for humanity!”
“There is something a very wise deity told you, Tagathis. ‘Your purpose may not be what you actually think it is.’ I hope you dwell more upon the meaning of these words. How could absorbing the prana of so many living creatures and using it as a platform to elevate yourself to sainthood be correct? How did the deities and divinities get where they were? It was not through what they had amassed, how much recognition or power they attained but their realizations that led them there. As well as their actions…”
“Enough, Zaide!” shouted Tagathis. “It would seem that you are as ignorant as the day I met you. The day I saw you kneel, I knew you were destined to be a servant of the higher gods. But not I, Zaide. I decided to forge my own path, to cut my own way and soon I shall enter into that realm and join them…”
Zaide’s face turned into a feral snarl. “Then, you leave me no further choice, Tagathis. By the laws of our kind, I will stop you right here.”
Tagathis threw him a nonchalant look, “You may try Zaide.”
Zaide sprang into the air, using nothing but pure energy as a springboard, his claws extending into huge sabers each the size of a tree. Tagathis brought his wings in front of himself, and Zaide’s enormous claws clashed into them, the sound of steel humming in the air. Zaide fell back slightly, standing on a board of prana. He crouched, ready for another leap. Tagathis opened his wings and from inside of them a spray of violet rain spewed out. Zaide reacted quickly, he knew it wasn’t rain. He decided on attack, despite the shower. Drops of the rain hit his coat, he could feel them eating away at him. It was an acidic rain, laced with tiny creatures that ate their way into his flesh. “No matter. I’ll end it this time,” thought Zaide leaping directly at Tagathis’s exposed head.
Esha stood, her strength had returned from the prana that had plunged into her. Shari joined her and Esha began to move quicker. “I know what we need to do Shari,” she said urgently. They emerged in the meeting room and went over to where Audas had been sitting. There they were. Genevre and Kane’s sacred objects. A staff carved beautifully from some kind of oak, and a music box that was well preserved despite being more than two hundred years old. Esha grabbed them and placed them in her sling bag she always carried. Then, she asked Shari, “Wait a minute, okay?” Shari nodded as Esha closed her eyes and squatted down. She didn’t even know what she was doing. She’d never done this before, but an inner knowing told her she could. Her feet were planted firmly on the ground; she felt her body tingle slightly as something slipped out of her. Her attention went to the eyes of the part that slipped out. It was floating above her, staring down at herself, she couldn’t help but thinking her hair was a mess. Turning her vision to the direction that Genevre and Audas headed in, she sent her spirit out, flying through walls and doors, like they were nothing and indeed, they were nothing. Finishing one layer of the Order’s headquarters, she went further down, submerging her soul in thick layers of brick and stone, till she emerged in a room. She saw Audas and Genevre, prostrate on the floor. Kalem was desperately shaking Audas’s body to try and revive him. Joseph was standing nearby, shaking his head and trying to pull himself together.
Shari watched as Esha went vacant. Sitting on the floor, her eyes closed, Shari watched as Esha’s eyeballs rolled around behind her closed eyelids. Esha was partially here, partially in the formless realm. Travelling. While staring, Shari saw Esha clutching the objects that belonged to Genevre and Kane. She figured Esha was seeking out their locations. Esha opened her eyes. She sprang to her feet and grabbed Shari’s hand again. “Let’s go!” she shouted. “I know where they are!” Esha ran as best as she could for a few minutes, but she hadn’t completely healed from her injury, so they began slowing down. Shari stopped her. Picking Esha up, she ran, holding Esha in her arms, Esha directing her through the labyrinth of walls and corridors.
Audas observed the two titans clashing above him, deliberating about what he could do. He noticed a presence begin to form nearby. He hadn’t seen her true shape in a long time. Nostalgia rang through him and an ache in his heart too. She looked exactly like the Genevre he had known back then. Even the clothes she wore were the same as those on that fateful day. Turning to him, a smile began to form on her face, slowly turning into a grimace. “Well, well,” she spat. “You’re not such a fat boy anymore, I see. But you’re still withholding precious prana, Audas. I thought that I might have the chance to put you through some sort of agonizing death. Now though, it looks like I’ll just have to kill you outright!” She raised her arms up on either side and brought them down in a sweeping motion. Where her hands came down, two ghostly forms sped out, darting toward Audas. He could barely make them out because they were faint and wispy, yet it seemed that they were snake headed. They were drawing in close. Audas reached into his pocket to pull out the magically charged handkerchief he carried. Taking it out, it formed a light blue shield in front of his body. The snake headed spirits smashed into the barrier, one of them dissipating on impact. The other carried on gnashing at the shield’s prana, trying to devour it. Audas flicked the shield forward, hard. It connected the snake entity’s head and it reeled away, disappearing too.
“Shit!” thought Audas. He realized he’d lost focus on Genevre during this time and missed her next move. Before he could turn, a snake’s fangs sunk into his arm that held the shield. He dropped it immediately, smashing his fist into the snake that hung, a reptilian apparition, on his arm. He heard the one above him before he saw it. It was going to rip off his head. He started raising his other arm, before he felt another force come between the snake and him. The snake creature smashed into it head on, vanishing rapidly into mist. Audas gave the creature on his arm a powerful jab, laced with his prana and it too disappeared. Beside him, stood Kane, a violet-purple shield in his hand. He brought it down and they both faced Genevre. “Let’s put an end to this, Audas,” remarked Kane. “Yes, I think it’s high time we did, old friend,” replied Audas.
Whisking, whirling, skinning the surface of the air, Shari and Esha ran towards the place she’d seen through astral traveling. The more they moved, the more Esha could feel it. They weren’t running anymore, they were flying. Before, Shari would momentarily touch the ground for another leap before she carried on. They weren’t now. Shari was simply flying towards their destination. When they emerged in the invocation room, they saw Kalem crouched over Audas’s inert figure. Joseph squatted next to him, appearing to have come to his senses. They were trying to rouse Audas. Shari and Esha could only gape at the sight.
“What the hell happened here?” exclaimed Esha. Kalem looked tearfully towards them and began to explain.
Zaide’s claws cleaved into Tagathis’s yellow eyes, sinking into their dark pupils. Slicing upward, Zaide attempted to sever off a portion of Tagathis’s head. He felt a huge wing, hard as steel, strike him in the midriff and he flew off the owl deity’s head. Zaide’s prana was ebbing, and Tagathis was getting the better of him.
“At least I’ve blinded him,” thought Zaide. “That ought to give me the upper hand.” Prana formed beneath him, cutting off his fall. Then, spinning round, he caught a glimpse of Tagathis’s eyes. They weren’t in the human realm now, so no blood seeped from the wounds, just two opaque circles stared back at him. Tagathis was blinded.
Zaide attempted another attack, this time from the rear. Treading on pranawaves, he slid around Tagathis, who was inert, perhaps shocked. Bounding up from behind, Zaide bore his fangs, ready to rip through Tagathis’s neck. He didn’t see the tip of the wing as it clipped upwards and pounded his face. Its force was powerful, and Zaide spun round and round from the force. He eventually stopped and regained his balance. Panting and heaving, he squinted at Tagathis, who didn’t even turn around to look at him.
“I didn’t only take on the form of an owl…Zaide. I took on its abilities too. Sight has never been one of my best senses anyway…”
Kane and Audas stood side by side and faced Genevre. She was only a few meters away. Kane thought of how lost she was, how close she was to him now, and felt like running forward to embrace her. Especially seeing the way she looked now, in the spirit world. She appeared the same as when he’d left her, just as radiant and beautiful.
“Well,” Genevre giggled, “It must be my lucky day! I get to castrate both the assholes who damned me to this place. Awww Kane, that sad look on your face…makes me want to cut it off! I’m coming, you two!” With that, Genevre broke into a run at them.
Esha a Shari finished listening to Kalem’s stuttering explanation. Shari was already attempting to heal Audas, but it didn’t seem to be working. Her prana wasn’t flowing into him properly. Esha had thought it all through already. Kane and Genevre had died. Technically, they should both be dead. They weren’t, however. And Esha knew why. It had something to do with their sacred objects. Audas was immortal, and probably should have died long ago too. It wasn’t up to her to decide what would happen to everyone. She knew one thing she could do, though.
“Kalem, get me something that can make a fire,” she said. Shari stared at her questioningly. “I’m gonna destroy Genevre’s sacred object.”