In the Other World, they say there is no rest for the wayward and wicked. From the iniquitous of the Shadow Lands, the depraved and wandering vagabonds come like thieves in the night to graze amidst the poor, plighted man--his woes an abundant bounty for the evil and the damned.
They say that sinners cast long shadows amidst the feeble human masses. From the Darkness they bemoan the good their coming journey; begrudge the living, defame the Light. They say that from the shadows tainted disciples can be seen like some great beacon. Condemned souls a black illumination like corporeal ghosts with rotting flesh.
But have you ever wondered where the vile stain of repentant sins go when those worth saving see the Light? Can the condemned be forgiven? Or does Darkness rule their life?
My name is Rihker Tennai – In the Other World they say that to understand death you must first come to know the dying, feel the ease of a soul’s surrender – walk a mile through their strife. Then, once you reach the Darkness – pray. Pray that in the end you cross over into the Light.
Lucky for me, my Darkness glows eternal…
The dust hadn’t even settled on the roadway as we left the Hill of the Clans, and I was already planning tortuous murder. Visions of maimed, bloody corpses ran rampant through my head. Angst filled my body. The molten heat of diffused fury settled by degrees, but not by my will. No, my mind overflowed with tumultuous waves of hatred and anger. Spumes of it, like an ocean riptide filled with sand the color of crimson, quaked in my veins, each thought churning into the next. Scraping against flesh and bone. One hatred ache causing another, despite my desperate need to get a grip on my thoughts. Maybe it was pointless. Death and pain filled me, and I was drowning in its blood-red wake. Although after the last few nights I’d had, it only seemed fair that somebody died. Didn’t it?
I had sworn to myself as I lay shivering and naked in that field of overgrown thatch and early Autumn grasses, the first hint of sunlight skimming across the field, each tuft dewing with a moist, glimmering shine, that by the power of the Prophet and all that I held holy, it sure as shit wasn’t going to be me.
By the time Gimlit finally found me, wrapped me in the warmth of a blanket, scooped me up and got me to the Jeep so that he could drive us into the oncoming dawn, I felt like total and utter shit. My ire and shock numbed me. I had grown cold and sedate with my overloaded emotions.
Apparently, about twelve hours had passed since Gimlit had found me in the field about eighty yards from the tree at the Hill of the Clans. He and Jade had been wandering around, searching for me. They were just as surprised about my naked, bloody form as I was.
“Where’s Mercy?” I asked Gimlit.
“She is back at the house, tucked away in the crypt for the day. Healing,” he said, his voice low, worried as he took in the sight of me.
“And the Changeling, Prism?”
“She is there as well.”
“I found the book, Gim,” I whispered, my voice as tired as my body was wounded.
He looked at me with bright hopeful eyes, and then they fell, knowing that all had not been restored to the Land and the Children of the Light.
“The Goblins have taken it,” I told him. “Modgav has taken it,” I said, anger filling my gut once again.
“It is as I thought,” he replied. “But I am afraid we have bigger problems.”
“Bigger? What could possibly be bigger than that?” I asked, knowing as he set me in the front seat of the Jeep, bundled in a blanket, naked, sore, angry and cold, that I truly didn’t want to know.
“Your police have left a message that your remaining Necromancer is missing.”
“Son of bitch,” I said with feeling, hanging my head. How the hell am I going to fix this, when I can’t even fix myself?
“That is not all of it.”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Whatever it was I knew it was seriously going to be the biggest, most massive piece of shit on toast that I’d had to deal with yet, and that it just really needed to be chucked and not even dealt with. Maybe I could just run away and hide somewhere.
“All right,” I said not bothering to look at anyone, “just give it to me straight.”
“Jade can no longer sense his brothers, and Jirvel has sent you a personal invitation,” he told me, not wanting to look at me either.
“A personal invitation to what?” I asked, finally looking at him askance.
“I’m afraid, Mistress, it is a Halloween Party. However, this invitation comes with special instructions, and I quote, “If she ever wishes to see any of her people alive again--tell her to come alone.”
Great. Just what I needed. The White Blood-sucking Bitch of the West was having a Monster Bash--with us as their main course.
Anger is often a fire to set you ablaze, but hatred freezes a heart and turns limbs to rods of ice while your mind freezes over in the cacophony of voices that sing with total destruction.
In my stricken haze, I watched the sky become a misty shade of glazed sherbet before it turned the horizon a brilliant burnt orange mist limned in fading black twilight, trying so desperately to chase away the darkness. I felt that same desperation resting in the pit of my stomach, a solid ache waiting for the right moment to make me retch. The encroaching dawn did much to fight off the splash of blackness that covered the skyline, but it did little against the stain I felt upon my soul.
Silence surrounded us, becoming just another weight bearing down on me as we settled in, each of us trying to gather our bearings, trying to make sense of what had transpired in the Land of Light.
Jet sat in the back seat, no more than a dark silhouette waiting for me to make some response to the night’s events. I was grateful that she had come back for me with Gimlit, though how she had escaped the clutches of Jirvel’s midnight madness, I couldn’t begin to fathom.
So many questions to be answered. Too many answers marked for death.
I could feel the pulse of her eagerness vibrate along my flesh. Sensed the utter urgency with which she yearned to speak. It was a sensation, at the moment, I could certainly do without. Uncertainty and unanswered questions lingered like a thick crimson haze, stirring the fine hairs along my skin, but I wasn’t ready to speak. Far too much had happened, most of it bad. Some of it I didn’t even recall.
For starters, I had no recollection of how I had managed to escape the Goblin King, Modgav. One minute we were tearing each other to shreds--me with teeth and claws, my body the burning haze of the red she-wolf, Modgav with his sword, thrashing and slicing in a mad fury, each of us struggling to hold on to the Book of the Way. Hatred and death so thick in the air you could feel it clinging to your flesh--a wound bore too long that festers and rots.
Somehow Jade, Gimlit, Mercy and I had managed to escape the wrath of my Queen. We’d disposed of her violence and the vile spread of Darkness that had begun to consume the Land of Light. For now, its inhabitants were free, but there were still so many other unanswered questions. Possession of the Book being at the forefront of my mind. Who would lead them, these wayward Fey? Keep their lives filled with Light--at the forefront of theirs.
At the moment, I couldn’t worry myself about who would rule their Kingdom. They had people in place that would see that the Kingdom would not fall. Right now, I knew that if the Book of the Way was not returned to us, the Land of Light wouldn’t even be a blip on the map, and who their ruler was would no longer matter.
How could I have been so foolish to think that I had the power to possess it? That I could keep Modgav from taking it from me, when I was nothing more than a half-breed in wolf’s clothing?
The Book of the Way, my people’s ancient source of power… All of our knowledge in one precious relic now in the hands of the Goblins. Why had this happened? How did it happen?
How the hell could I have let any of this transpire? How could I let him take it from me? And how had it gotten in the hands of the Goblins in the first place? Who had betrayed us--the Children of Light?
So many questions. My soul ached with them. The burden was immeasurable. I would have screamed if I thought it would do any good.