Our Last Duet

Story by Elliott Rose and Sadie Blake

 

*This story takes place during the third arc of the podcast entitled "The Future Was Then" first episode of the arc is here. * 

 

I’m coming for you, Eva. I’m tired.  I should rest. I should compliment you; you still know how to torture. I’ve walked thirteen miles since you dumped my body at the start of the Dolfiend Springs. Did you want to make a statement? About our disagreement? The disagreement that led to all of this?

Four miles ago I stumbled upon the Kullen Druids. They healed me the best they could. Asked me to stay. Asked me to explain why I apologized about Vix and Rocretia. But I couldn’t. I had to leave. I have to know I’m getting closer to you. I have to know that my swords will find you.

The sun is high, its light filtering through the trees. Birds sing songs not meant for us.

Songs of love and desire. If things were different I could imagine spending a life here in

these woods. In a little cottage like Alwyn always wanted. That would’ve been a good life. I could’ve been happy. I was in love. I could still have been loved.

But you’ve alive. You now know what I know about necromancy. I had to do it to save Vix, Volaf, and especially Resh. You know my pressure points. You know what I know.

 

Unfortunately for you, I also know what you know. And I’m coming.

 

I’ve had to make a guess. Which would you choose first? Alanoir’s body or the Museum of Remembrance in the Prismatic Nation? Would you retrieve your fallen king or would you go where all the great weapons from the Bladesinger War are held?

The Axe of Malice is there. The great Dwarven weapon. The one Bazzerak used to mortally wound Alanoir during the Night of Failed Peace. The night you began to lose the war.

Is it because of Bazzerak that you slaughtered the Broken Rock Mountain Dwarves next to Ethian? Brought them back with your imperfect Necromancy? Were they nothing more than experiments in this game? A test run for when you’d directly assault Mount Quarg and Bazzerak himself?

When your magic failed, is that when you realized you needed me?   

Is that why you forced Volaf to fight you one-on-one? Why you held him in place and slashed at him, helpless and suffering. Taking his great strength and leaving him nothing but weakness..

He survived. He’s alive. He’s coming for you.  

 

I used to know you well. When we trained together Alanoir said it was as if we were shadows of one another other, so perfectly synced were our movements. So balanced he couldn’t tell who cast whom. I’m uncertain whether that holds. After the Dolfiend madness overtook you, along with Alanoir, Anelian, and Ras. I’m not certain I can still guess you the way I used to.

 

There is rustling deep in the forest. Some Lizardfolk following me. It would be easy to find them, to end them. But I don’t want to kill anymore, Eva. So I’ll drop to a knee and bend a tree branch down, create a snare and cover it. That should hold one of them for a while.

We loved you, you know? Alwyn and me. That’s why we invited you to our wedding. Why I asked you to hold the wreath I made for her. You at my side holding it. Wiles at Alwyn’s side, holding the one she made for me. There under the great trees, the ever gloaming, deep within the forest of the Children of the Fey. Ras officiating. Alanoir gave me away. And you were there, and we were all so happy.

But you know the pressure points, don’t you? That night, you saw the love between Alwyn and her brother. . You knew if you forced her into a choice between her life or his, she wouldn’t hesitate to give hers. And you knew that would destroy me.. You knew I Iwould sequester myself in the woods of Ethian, spending every waking moment delving into the mysteries of necromancy, desperate to bring her back..

That’s what you do, isn’t it? You take love and you turn it on itself.

 

Chosen. Chosen. Chosen. Chosen.

 

The snare goes off. Panicked chattering. They’re closer than I thought. What little magic I have left is barely enough to create an illusion of an earthen mound. I hide behind it, though it wavers like a mirage in the distance. Sweat pours down my brow and drops to the ground. I follow its lead and lay to the side of the path, breathing deep and quiet.

You told Resh I killed his parents. The three of us were hunting you. You got the drop on them, disguised them as yourself and Ras. Set them out as bait for your snare. And I took that bait as I took my shot. I thought I had finally killed you both. But that night I murdered my friends and orphaned their son.

When you told Resh, with that little laugh to your voice, all the training he’d dedicated his life to disappeared. Instead of a decorated Kensei Monk confronting you there was only a boy with a primal pain.  

You slayed him six times, reviving him and marking him after each death.

 

But he survived. And he is coming for you.

 

You have your patterns. You did to Resh what you did to Alwyn. When I laid her down in her coffin, I crossed her arms over her chest. I had dressed her in the gown she wore our first day at the Arcane College. The lavender that perfectly matched her eyes... eyes now and forever shut. She was a vision in death as she was in life. My love. So I crossed her arms and prepared to put her away. But her sleeves rode up and I saw your marks on her. The number of of times you killed her, brought her back, killed her again. Seven marks. Seven slayings. And you left her dead.  

 

Moonfire. Moonfire. Moonfire. Moonfire.

 

Something is wrong. I keep hearing voices. Is this what it’s like for you?

 

I was there when you adopted Namla. We were all there: Alanoir, Anelian, Ras, Alwyn, you, me. I saw love in your eyes. I saw a woman who would do anything for her child. I saw Ras let his guard down for just a moment and make funny faces and dance like a gangly spider caught in its own web, all for Namla’s laughter. It was like a drug, wasn’t it? Her joy.

I remember Alwyn bending down to be at eye level with Namla. Saying in her bright voice, “I’m Aunty Alwyn, do you like magic?”

Namla nodding.

“Do you like stories?”

Another nod..

“Tell us your favorite one.”

Namla’s eyes lighting up. “Clever Sisters!”

In an instant Alwyn made each the characters in the books appear in our hands. It’s a simple magic, yes, but a lovely one. Each of us were the characters and stage, Namla the director. I was the eldest sister and the crone. You were the youngest sister and the villain.

 

You are to be. You are to be. You are to be. You are to be.

 

There are only three remaining Ents left in Gilea. Three crucial Ents. The immune system to our continent. . Magical protection against things we cannot see or even fathom. You know the Druids are tasked with caring for them. You wanted to kill the one in Red. With Vix captured you gave him  a choice: kill the Ent, or watch you kill Rocretia.

He knew Rocretia wouldn’t forgive him if he killed the Ent. You ended her life.

You take love and you turn it on itself.

 

But he survived, and he is coming for you.

 

They had nothing to do with Namla’s disappearance. They are not the reason she slipped off into an eternal dream. You know it was the Archdiocese. And I know that grief, the grief you felt when she was taken. I’ve felt it too. The grief that pushed you into a round-the-clock pursuit. The grief that drew you to the springs,  the waters that would aid you in your search, give you the strength to continue searching. Past exhaustion. Past hope.

We all joined in the effort to find her but only Alanoir was convinced to drink from the springs with you. Namla’s disappearance was proof, you said, that elves had suffered at the hands of the other races for far too long. That our aloofness was no longer an option. That we had to be proactive. Make sure that nothing like the attacks by the Horde of Men, the confederation before the Prismatic Queen and the Knights, ever happened again.

You found Namla but lost yourself. You’ve succumbed to your anger and now you have to raze the world, don’t you?

 

I know why you did what you did. But that doesn’t excuse any of it. Acknowledgement is not forgiveness.

 

You took your love and you turned it on itself. You tried to make a better world and you nearly destroyed it. And you very well may this time.

 

Moonfire Phoenix! Moonfire Phoenix! Moonfire Phoenix! Moonfire Phoenix!

 

There is blue fire around me. I . . .  don’t know what this means. Is it you again? Did you do something to me? It’s fire but it’s cool. I hear the Lizardfolk coming. They dodged my trap this time. I reach for my swords but stop myself. I don’t want to kill anyone, Eva.

 

But you’re not anyone.

You are Evangeline.

I will survive.

I will come for you.

And I will kill you.