The Antiphon Arc
Genevre’s speed tripled in the spirit world. She’d just started rushing toward Kane and Audas, and suddenly she was between them. Kane had molded an axe of prana, and Audas’s hand was covered in a brass glove. But they weren’t in time to prevent Genevre from sinking the claws of her left hand into Kane’s stomach and elbowing Audas in the jaw. Audas staggered back from the blow, while Genevre thrust her hand further into Kane’s abdomen, twisting and turning. Kane’s expression of agony changed slowly as he gritted his teeth together. He brought his axe round in a smooth sweep and lopped Genevre’s head off.
Kane gasped in amazement, he hadn’t expected Genevre to be harmed so easily. Then, he heard her sing song voice cackling nearby. “This is really getting brilliant! I haven’t had this much fun in a century! The expressions on you two are priceless!” Kane gaped, horrified at Genevre’s decapitated head talking a few yards away. Audas came to his feet and Genevre’s headless body continued attacking Kane. Mustering up all his strength, Audas ran at Genevre, pounding his fist into her side. There was a crunching sound, followed by Genevre’s cadaver collapsing in a heap a few feet away.
A tentacle shot out from Genevre’s head and slithered its way over to her inert body. Connecting with it, her head slid back along the misty ground to her form and reconnected. Shortly, she was up again. “You really are morons, aren’t you? In this world, everything is spirit, and prana. Staying here as long as I have, I’ve learnt how to separate my prana so that I can send my essence to various different places at once.” She gave them a sickly sweet, inane smile. A bored look came across her face and she carried on, “Oh yes, and that’s not all…” She didn’t finish her sentence. Pointing her hand at Kane, it transformed into the shape of a butterfly’s proboscis. She shot it straight at Kane’s head, and it latched onto his mouth. “I’ve learnt how to suck prana out of other life forms too. Remember the jellyfish thing and all those people getting drained before my reincarnation? That was all my doing. In this realm, being able to absorb prana is…invaluable.” Kane staggered back, pulling at the limb attached to his head, whilst Audas punched at it with all his might. All the while, Genevre felt a sense of satisfaction that she had deeply longed for.
Kalem and Joseph made a massive pile of broken chairs, wooden boards and shelving that they’d gathered from the room. Joseph knelt down, and soon he had a large fire going. The flames licked up the wood hungrily and Esha took Genevre’s music box out of her sling bag. Before, she might have hesitated, thinking that there must be a better way…but not this time. She flung the box onto the mini inferno. It caught quickly; its old wooden exterior was soon engulfed in fire. The whole box was burning fast, and Esha watched as it crumbled and broke apart. Esha thought she was seeing things when a golden light wafted upward from the remains of the box, an ethereal smoke. It went on through the ceiling and out of her vision.
Genevre leapt at Audas, her proboscis arm elongating as she moved away from Kane, who was still grappling with it. Audas readied himself and turned to face her. She stopped a short distance from him, a malicious sneer on her face. Raising her right arm, she prepared to use the same technique she’d used earlier. Slicing her arm down, she froze in mid stance. Her expression grew confused and she looked at herself, eyes widening. Her legs were disappearing. They disintegrated into light particles, like speckles of gold dust, rising into the air. It continued up her legs, until she had vanished up to her waist. Terror and panic overtook her; she started yelling, “What’s this? Shit! Nooooo! I won’t let it end like this!” Snarling, she glared over at Kane, who was flailing wildly at the proboscis attached to his mouth. Concentrating, Genevre chanted a few words and Kane stopped moving, frozen still. Light blue prana moved from Kane’s mouth into the proboscis and traveled down it. Entering Genevre’s disappearing form, the prana made her glow, shimmering the same color.
Audas watched in fascination and horror. “Shit,” he thought, “She’s leeching Kane’s prana. I guess that Esha must have destroyed her music box for her to have this reaction. However, she’s using Kane’s energy to survive. What the hell should I do now?”
Kane felt his energy being drained and stopped struggling. He knew what it had come to…Genevre was absorbing his prana to reform herself. He sensed that Kalem was nearby. There was one option left open to him…no, to all of them. Kane dove down to the material world, his soul literally dripping downwards. Though there was only a drop of spirit left within him, he still had to try. The proboscis pulled at him, but stayed attached. Kane had seen how Genevre could elongate it. Never mind…he was close…there…Kalem was right up ahead…
Kalem stumbled forward slightly as Kane entered his body. His personality sunk into the background and Kane’s voice emerged. “E…E…Esha…” he spluttered, and fell to his knees. Esha spun about, knowing it was Kane. She saw something was wrong; Kane’s face was pallid, nearly without any color. Esha went down to support him, holding him up. His eyes opened and met Esha’s. “Esha…” he said with relief. “You must do…something for me…my sacred object…the staff…destroy it for me…”
“What? Kane, are you crazy? You don’t know what that’ll do to you! You might die!” screamed Esha.
Kane looked at her with caring eyes, “I’m already dead…Esha. I died a long time ago. I’ve clung to this excuse for life for a long time, for one reason alone. And now, it looks like she’ll take my prana and continue to cause more pain to those around her. Destroy it for me Esha. It’s the way it should have been…a long time ago…” Kane began losing consciousness.
“No! Kane!” Esha cried. “I won’t let you die, I’ll find…a…way…” Even as she said it, she knew there was no other way. If Genevre was sucking Kane’s prana from him to regenerate herself, she’d actually be hurting him if she didn’t do it. She held Kane tightly in her arms, tears trickling down her cheeks all the time.
“Joseph!” she called out.
“Yeah?” he replied.
“Throw that staff over there into the fire.”
“But isn’t that…?”
“Just do it!” she yelled, unable to contain her sadness and anger. She turned her head to watch as Joseph tossed the ornately carved wood on the flames. Within seconds, the fire was eating away at it. Esha held onto Kane even tighter as she saw prana, as blue as a clear sky, rise up and out.
Kane opened his eyes briefly and looked into Esha’s. “Esha…I’ve only known you…for a short time. But every moment I spent with you…made me happy. Thank you…for letting me feel…what it’s like…to be alive again…” Kane closed his eyes and his consciousness left Kalem’s body. Kalem’s mind returned and he opened his eyes to see Esha, tears streaming down her face. Opening his mouth to speak…he stopped himself. It wasn’t the time for words.
Genevre stared down at her newly generated hands and legs. Her fear changed to a look of glee, laughing out loud. “I…I…did it. I…I’m back! Ahhahahaha! And you’re a dead man Kane!” She peered at Kane closely to see he wasn’t moving. She also couldn’t feel his prana coming to her anymore. “Aaaah, that’s it…you’re already an empty vessel aren’t you? You’re dry. I don’t need you any more…just disappear!” She began to retract the proboscis and she was startled to see Kane still holding onto it. Tugging at it again, it wouldn’t come free. Watching, she saw Kane’s legs dissolve, continuing on all the way past his waist, up to his chest and eventually his head was also gone. But his prana wasn’t ascending like it normally would; it was entering the long proboscis and traveling towards Genevre. His prana entered Genevre all at once and Audas thought he saw an azure glow flicker over her body. Her eyes flashed as Kane’s prana immediately spread throughout her, an unseen root system permeating her soul. She clutched her head and let out a long wail. Audas could do nothing but watch as she slumped to the ground.
“So, in the end…that was what you chose…old friend,” Audas whispered.
“This isn’t my memory. I’m floating in a sea of dreams and reminiscences. Bubbles pass me by; each one contains an experience and strong impressions. I am a dandelion, drifting the air of this consciousness that isn’t mine. I am Genevre…that’s right, these must be Kane’s memories. His mind that came into me. A translucent bubble comes near, I see Kane and Audas inside it. So, I enter it. Inside the bubble, I see both of them. Audas sitting on his favorite armchair from the old house in France, and Kane on a nearby couch. This must be a memory of the past. They are talking and both look concerned.
“The truth is, we both don’t know what actual gift the spirit guardian will bestow, but we do know that it will be beneficial,” mutters Audas. “What we don’t know is the price…theoretically, it should take the prana of our sacred objects and that ought to be enough. But if it isn’t…one of our lives may be forfeit…”
“Then let’s just call it off Audas! We don’t want to risk anyone’s life, just forget about the whole thing,” says Kane intensely.
“We could do that…if it weren’t for the condition I told you about,” Audas says quietly. Kane remains silent. “Genevre has a rare disease Kane, and modern medicine has no known cure for it. At the most, she might live for a few more months.”
“Then, we have no choice but to continue…” said Kane. “For her sake, one of us may have to sacrifice our lives to let her receive the spirit guardian’s blessing and go on living.” Both Kane and Audas glance at one another. “I’m willing to do it,” says Kane.
“Yes,” says Audas, “For her, anything would be worth it.”
Genevre’s shape lit up in a golden and sapphire hue, Kane’s prana and hers blended. Even though no tears existed in this realm…Audas wanted to cry nonetheless. He understood what had happened…what Kane had done. His gaze turned to the monoliths above him. Zaide was severely wounded, while Tagathis continued to barrage him with attacks even though he’d lost the use of his eyes. Tagathis showed little signs of weakening. Audas hardened his resolve, taking out the blue gem that was the shark’s tooth in the real world. All the prana gathered by hundreds of devout magic users over the centuries had been moved from Audas’s physical body to this gem. Audas took a deep breath, and smashed the gem to pieces. The sound of it shattering echoed across the spirit realm and Zaide and Tagathis stopped. Zaide saw in a flash what Audas had done, a resounding, “Nooooooooooooo!” escaped his lips. He turned around and leapt back to Audas. Tagathis remained still briefly, and then stretched his wings out to their full extent.
“It’s time for me to fly,” Tagathis said to himself.
Prana gushed from the remains of the blue gem, flooding towards Tagathis. Striking him in his chest, the energy sank into him, and he blazed with red light, like a new born sun. The light was too piercing to look at, so Audas turned away from it. Zaide landed by his side, a look of desperation on his face. “Why, Audas? Why did you destroy the gem and release all that prana? Do you realize that you’ve given Tagathis what he wanted? He’ll have even more power now…I don’t know what he’ll be capable of…”
Silence formed between them. It was the silence at the end, the silence that ensues when there isn’t anything more you can say. Audas noticed his leg had started disappearing too, granules of his energy twinkled on their ascent. “It looks like our contract’s been dissolved, Zaide. The sacred objects symbolized our pact…but now…all three of our objects have been destroyed.”
“Yes,” Zaide said softly, “The spell has been undone.”
Audas heaved a sigh of relief. Then he spoke, “I think that sometimes, we just have to let things run their course. In my life, I tried to alter everything, to play with destiny and twist the forces that be. I suppose that is something worthwhile too, and it had its importance. But there are times, when things just need to be left to flow. I keep thinking about what that deity once said to Tagathis, ‘What you really want may not be what you think it is’. This is something that I’ve come to realize for myself and I hope that Tagathis will too. What does he truly hope to gain or accomplish? I’m sure he’ll find that out soon. As for me, I found it out, Zaide. In all these years I’ve really come to…understand….” Audas’s face broke up into fireflies of silvery light and they all rose up into the firmament above. Zaide turned to see Tagathis shining intensely, infused by the mass of prana he’d gathered. All at once, rays of vermillion streamed out from him, then started spinning round and round. New rays of different colors manifested, forming a kaleidoscope of color. The rainbow wheel started spinning, until it spun at such a speed that Zaide couldn’t see it clearly. Giving off an immense blaze, it diminished into a solitary ball of purple light that shone by itself…a lonely orb…until it too…disappeared.