Reverent Sacrifice

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Time is up. Christine makes the ultimate sacrifice and pays the price for the feelings she has developed for Jefferson.

Chapter 16 (v.1) - Chapter 16

Submitted: March 16, 2017

Reads: 26

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Submitted: March 16, 2017



As if the sky itself knew that the time had come, black clouds gathered around the mountain the morning of the deadline day. The castle had been darker on the inside as the days had passed, and now it seemed mostly devoid of light all the time. At midnight that night the curse would finally be complete.

Jefferson had convinced Christine to sleep the night before despite her insisting that rest was a waste of precious time. In all honesty, he hadn't been tired at all; he had just wanted to hold her and maybe dream one last time before his long life came to an end. He truly hated himself for giving up so completely, but there was no other choice that he saw, no way to cheat his way out, no way for him to escape. He could only be thankful for her effort and care and for making his final months feel like they had been spent well. When he woke, he felt extraordinarily heavy and lethargic. He had indeed fallen asleep, but was not blessed with a pleasant dream to send him off. He looked down and saw Christine had rolled over to cling to him sometime in the night. Her head was resting on his shoulder and one of her hands was clutching the silk of his nightshirt. She had tangled their legs together and her eyes snapped open the second he tried to move.

Now that they were both awake, the peaceful veil of sleep gave way to a growing sense of dread that raised them both to their feet. Christine was almost instantly across the room and dawning the dress she had worn during her attack days earlier, her face set in a grave scowl; she knew exactly what could come of the day, but it was in her nature to fight no matter what.

Jefferson, on the other hand, was having trouble keeping his eyes open as he changed out of his pajamas and into his regular clothes, pulling his coat over it all to stop the chills racing up and down his spine. He trudged to the spells tower with Christine and helped her re-organize the books that they had left out. She wasted no time in flipping through the pages, searching for something he couldn't muster up the effort to care about. On some level he knew it was wrong of him to let her do all of the work, but he was completely useless. As she leaned over the books, her eyes scanning over the pages with a silent panicked urgency that made him more nervous. She did not think that she could really do it, did she? The only magic that could help him was not possible for them to use in this place He ended up wandering through the aisles between the tall bookshelves, occasionally peeking out to find her in the same place.

Perhaps if they had met under different circumstances it could be possible that their relationship would change. Maybe they would have been something other than friends. Maybe she would hate hated him and his lack of morality, his lack of compassion for others, his inability to match her in any way. Maybe he could have called her a mother for Grace.

He walked to the secret door in the wall and opened it, walking through the pitch black halls to the room he knew his hat was still in. He picked it up and flipped it up in his fingers to rest on his head. He allowed himself a small smile and walked back through the halls, listening to the quiet clicking of his tall leather boots on the marble floor.

As soon as he passed the threshold of the tower, he was greeted by Christine who was holding a book. "Oh you brought the hat! Good! Come with me." She grabbed his hand and tugged him to the table where the books were where he had seen them last. "I might be able to ask for the blessing of the god who counters Catarr. There is a small chance it could help."

He nodded and followed her to the back of the tower where there was more space. She turned a few pages in the book and laid it down on the floor, then sat on the floor in front of it. She leaned forward and scanned over the words then sat up straight and rested her hands on her knees. She closed her eyes, the image of space on her skin spreading across the line of her spine. An aura of light surrounded her, making Jefferson raise a hand to shield his eyes.

She began speaking, her words incomprehensible as they echoed throughout the chamber. Her light grew brighter and voice louder until he ended up having to back away. It could have been minutes or hours before the light finally faded and she grew silent. He couldn't read her expression when she shut the book and stood.

"Well?" He sounded more urgent than he intended. "What did they say?"

She looked down at the book, her lips pursed. She sighed. "I..I made a bargain with it..It is the lesser of two evils, I think, but I have to meet it halfway." She walked to the table and put the book down.

"What does that mean? Halfway where?" He left little space between them, wanting to reach out and clutch her shoulders for support.

"You know that with magic there is always a price, right?"

He nodded. "Yes of course, always."

"The price for breaking this curse is three things." She leaned against the table, crossing her arms. "The creators of the curse itself must pay with their lives, which is two. And whoever is breaking it must become the source of the magic's new host."

His eyes widened. "What? What do you mean 'host'? What is this going to do to you?" He gripped her arms. "Christine, please don't do this, you can't."

"I  must, Jefferson. I cannot just let you and your daughter die. It does not matter to me what you've done, the last fifteen years have been more than enough punishment. I am going to break this curse."

He squeezed her," But why?! Why would you risk so much for a man you barely know?!" He dropped his hands, clenching his fists. He turned away from her, his shoulders hunched and shaking.

"I am doing it because you're my friend." She paused briefly, her next words dying on her tongue. She reached up and touched his shoulder. "Jefferson, please. This is something I have to do. I do not understand why you are so against it. Do you not want you and your daughter to live?"

He tensed when she touched him and several moments of silence stretched between them before he quietly said. "Of course I want to live! I want my daughter back! I want my life back. But..," he trailed off and turned to face her, his eyes watery, "I don't know if I could stand living if you had to pay for it. I don't understand why you're doing all of this for me. It can't just be in the name of justice or redeeming your family. There has to be more, but either way I shouldn't be worth that much to you. Why don't you just leave me in the mess I made for myself?"

It was so insidious, so small and subtle at first that she didn't notice the change in the energy around them when she spoke. Their time was up. "Of course there is more, you mean a lot to me. You are my friend." Every time she said it she felt worse. She saw how his jaw clenched as if he had just been slapped and yet she went on. "I cannot let you die. I cannot let you be sacrificed in my name." It slipped out before she could stop herself and a hand flew up to cover her mouth.

"What? What do you mean sacrifice?" He pulled her hand away from her mouth. "Christine if there's something I should know, please tell me."

She couldn't meet his gaze and hers dropped to the floor. Her eyes widened and she stared at his feet. "No." It was barely a whisper, but it resonated with panic and despair.

He froze, his grip on her hand tightening painfully. "What is it?" He looked down and saw the black stone of the floor melting and climbing up to cover the boots on his feet.

"Wait, what time is it??" She looked up and out the window. "It cannot be! I could have sworn we-"

"There's no more time." His voice shook and he gripped her when she tried to turn around. "We ran out, Christine." He stared at the inky blackness swallowing up his feet, then reaching up to his legs, piercing the leather of his pants to seep into his skin. His eyes squeezed shut as pain shot through his body. He clutched her shoulders for support when he felt his knees were going to give out. "It's all done. I'm so sorry." He managed to grit out through clenched teeth.

Tears flowed freely down her cheeks and she held onto him. "No wait! Please! Do not, I can stop it!" She tried to step back and he yanked her closer, his legs were nearly covered in the blackness she'd fought off several times before. His face was pinched in a grimace and his breathing was ragged.

"Just stay, please..I need you here.." It was getting harder for him to speak.

"I am here, I will not leave you." She tried not to look down and see that tentacles of black were reaching up toward his torso now, making his gasp with pain.

His eyes watered and he pressed his face into her neck, trying to get a hold of his ragged breathing. "I'm so sorry..I'm sorry.." he whimpered, his tears soaking into the fabric of her dress.

"No Jefferson, do not be. I should have done something more. I am-"

"I love you so much and now I failed and all of our time is up.." he sobbed.

She froze, her gaze locked on the dark window. She had heard wrong. She had to. There was no way he just said that.

"I love you and I thought I couldn't.." He said it again, his grip on her tightening as he shook violently, sobbing hard. "It's such a waste..You're so perfect and you wasted it all on me.."

The blackness reached up and was nearing his heart; she knew it was killing him. "How could you think that? I love you, Jefferson. I am so sorry I could not stop this." She said it softly, afraid of what she was finally admitting to herself. She had found one of the most precious things in the world and now she was going to lose it forever, knowing that in all her power she still failed.

He cried out, struggling to gasp for air as his lungs were squeezed to the point of bursting.

Neither of them noticed the light that was now coming from her until it erupted, burning the blackness consuming him. It formed an aura that lit everything around her in a pure white glow and illuminated the sight of a small black orb rolling toward her on the floor.

Jefferson coughed, still holding on tightly to her as he regained his ability to move and breathe. He looked down at the orb then jerked back when it flew up, morphing into a spike that pierced the center of her chest.

Christine fell to her knees, screaming as her skin was torn and burned along with the fabric covering her chest. And outline formed in the center of her chest, her dark skin branded with the sign of Catarr as the aura surrounding her retreated into the image of the heavens still on her back. The outline of it was white now and just as clearly visible as the symbol over her heart. She took several deep breaths, her eyes tightly shut with the pain of the burning as it faded into a dull ache.

Hundreds of miles away, in the East where few dared to travel, a single man wandered through the tunnels carved out of the massive tree and building complex that he called home. He and his family. One of them was missing, but he knew where she was. He walked outside and leaped up into the branches of the tree with inhuman grace, walking along the branches until he reached the top where the branches weaved into one another tightly enough to create a room. One that had not been lived in for four years.

He lied down on the bed of blankets and pillows that took up half the room, and closed his eyes. The blackness that had been seeping out of the floor and following him for the length of his walk finally grew and enveloped him, piercing and melting his skin into it. He was going to miss his spouses, and his apprentice, and his people, but he had seen this coming and planned accordingly. He had spent time with the ones he loved the most. He had granted many long-held wishes that they harbored. He had not wasted a single moment.

Behind his eyes, he could see his daughter, his precious prodigy, lying on the ground as he was, in pain as he was, but he did not worry. He knew she would live, just as he knew he would not. His only regret was that she would not get to say goodbye like her family had. He hoped he would get to see her again one day, when she was great. When she was all that she was meant to be. He was going to miss her. 

Christine took several deep breaths, her eyes tightly shut with the pain of the burning as it faded into a dull ache. A few tears escaped from her eyes as the image of her father lying in her bed and being torn apart by the darkness that had tried to take Jefferson faded from her mind. That was the last she would ever see of him.

Jefferson knelt beside her, pulling her to him. "Christine? What did that thing do to you?! Are you alright?" he settled her in his lap, staring down at the sign burnt into her skin in horror.

She opened her eyes, now watery. "I am alive..It took what it wanted..I will be okay.."

He held her tight. "I thought I was going to lose you."

She slid her arms around his neck, squeezing him. She needed him to hold her together now. If he let go, she would shatter. "I thought I was going to lose you..I was so scared..I am so sorry I let all of that happen.."

He inhaled deeply, his face tucked into her neck again. "Don't be. We still have each other, right?" He sounded unsure and when he met her eyes as she pulled back, his left eye twitched.

She smiled at him, and it pierced her face with pain. "Yes. Yes we do." Even in her agony, she couldn't help but feel that somehow it was worth it when she looked at him. She hoped her father would forgive her one day.

An adoring smile spread across his face and he drew her closer. She was so much more than he could have ever asked for. Perhaps now he would finally have a real family with her and his Crimson. "Can I kiss you? Please? I don't want to-"

She slid her hands around to hold his face and pressed their lips together, still feeling a buzz when they came in contact. She felt him melt under her and a warmth that she had been denying the presence of for weeks finally filled her. It covered the numbness for the moment.

Jefferson broke the gentle kiss moments later and leaned his forehead against hers, still smiling. "I love you," he whispered.

She smiled back at him. "I love you, too." She kissed his nose and giggled, nearly delirious.

He started laughing and squeezed her tight, closing his eyes.

Out from their embrace rushed a wave of color, the manifestation of their love escaping the tower room and passing through walls and floors. It banished the darkness in the castle walls and exterior, melting away the dark mineral appearance to reveal a construction that resembled the main land kingdoms.

Christine was the first to stand, drawing Jefferson up with both hands. They held still for a moment, frozen and overwhelmed. Their eyes were alight as they took in the sight of each other. They had survived. They had accomplish the impossible. They had won.

This battle was the first of many to come, but they believed were ready to face the future. They would survive again; they would accomplish the impossible again; they would win again. They had to. She knew her fate was not only coming for her, but for them both.

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