One Way: Part Eleven
I weakly opened my eyes once more.
I was trying so hard to be strong. But I quickly realized I didn't have to.
A huge cream-colored face peered down at me, startled. Everything was blurry, but I could make out pool-like golden eyes and a hollow golden circle. Her quick, deep gasp shook the room as she lifted me from her son's arms. A wave of coolness spread through me and chased away the burning pain.
I curled my tail inwards and hissed gently. The moment the mace hit me, I knew that there was nothing I could do to heal myself. But this was different. This was true healing.
A curved, blunt claw, thick as my chest, touched my shoulder and rolled me onto my back to straighten me out.
Just like that, I was gone.
"Yes, she'll be fine." The Creator clasped her fingers over Rubia, concealing her. "Give her a few hours."
Faith gave a deep, long, heavy sigh of relief. Cerulean sat down and folded his hands behind his head, ready to wait.
The Creator looked up from Rubia, delicate form hunched over. Her gaze flitted from Cerulean to Faith, and finally frowned when it stopped on me.
"Opal!" she called, turning to the cavern's single wooden door.
The door cracked open, and a thin white Ogrin slipped through. "Yes, milady?" she asked.
My heart stopped.
Opal went back through the door, and my freedom vanished with her.
I closed my eyes. I had a lifetime to spend trying to accept that the only girl I could ever love was gone, except that was when I fully realized it.
I opened my eyes just in time to see Evre enter. She gasped when she saw me. And then she began to approach me.
I nodded solemnly.
She looked up and met my eyes with her surprised blue ones. Cringing, I took a step towards her.
"Evre, you are dismissed from your task."
I jumped. Evre's mouth popped open. I lashed around to look at my mother.
Grinning deviously, she rested one paw over the other. Her eyes sparked with satisfaction.
Evre began to stutter, "I—I—"
"You did your job."
The pink-furred Ogrin turned to me again. The night she nearly caught me seemed like it was just one second ago. Finally, she just took one huge breath. Her hands twitched.
But she bowed all the same, turned around, and went right back through that plain wooden door.
Then the room was silent for a few seconds.
The Creator said, "You're hurt, aren't you?"
"It's nothing," I muttered.
My words were true.
The blaring pain in my chest, the screaming one in my skull, and the countless bruises across my body didn't matter any longer. Not to someone who wouldn't die no matter how hurt he was. Someone doomed to someone else's long life. Someone doomed to an eternal hole in a tender, new part of his heart.
"No, it's not." A hand pushed against my back. I turned, and met Cerulean's face, his amber eyes calm with insistence.
Faith, standing just behind him, added: "It could never be nothing."
"Fine," I spat, to please them, and turned to walk to the Creator myself. I suddenly bent over and clutched my chest in pain. It became too much just then.
"He's barely walking," Faith murmured.
I turned my head to glare at her. With my eyelid twitching, it probably didn't get my point across.
That was when two walls of warm fur closed in around me and the world grew dim. Then my pain stopped, but I felt nothing else.
'You've learned well enough that there are certain things people ought not to do.'
I wriggled my head out of her grasp and, unwilling to use her telepathy, spat: "In case you're expecting an apology, you're not getting one. I know you're too generous to not heal me right now no matter what."
She opened her lips to speak. But Faith interjected, "She might pass on healing you if she thinks that's better for you. I'd certainly like to see you blow something like that."
The Creator gently nodded. "Faith has a point. But nonetheless, I feel that I must heal you. Maybe I will heal you no matter what." She smiled a tiny bit wider. "But maybe I'll do more than heal you. Maybe I'll cause you to be just a little bit verbally challenged. I do know that Faith would appreciate that."
"And if you ever do decide to apologize," the Creator added, "I know that I wasn't the one you wreaked havoc upon."
I sighed. She was cruel in her own kind way. But then a foolish thought hit me, and I just had to ask it. "What are the odds that I'm going to be able to use light magic after this?"
I immediately regretted it. Legends told of ordinary woodlanders who inherited her magic after being healed, yes, but they were never any of her own children. And she'd certainly never choose me.
But the Creator was unfazed. "I don't think of anything in terms of odds," she stated simply, brow wrinkled. "But yes, somebody might be getting magic tonight."
"Then it's possible!" I cried. "Thank you!"
The Creator remained silent.
Cerulean and Faith both stepped forward, looking expectant.
Since the Creator had her paws full, she simply thrust her face forward and nuzzled them both at the same time. "I can't heal anyone who doesn't need it; I know it feels good, but with my power, it can be harmful when there's no injury for the magic to focus on."
"I understand," Cerulean said.
The Creator smiled.
Then she turned to a normal-size wooden door and called, "Opal!"
A white Ogrin maid immediately appeared at the entrance. "Yes, milady?" she asked.
"Show these two to—"
But she was interrupted by a shrill scream from up the slope. A brown Ogrin in warrior clothes dashed into sight. "Milady!" he cried. "A visitor— is trying to get in—He has, he... he killed the soldier on duty with me!"
Terror mounted in my heart as a new shadow appeared on the slope. Although I trusted Mother to protect us, I moved closer to Faith.
Lofty figure, jagged posture, rough grey skin that I realized was actually stone. The Mynci was dressed in a dry purple tabard with cuffed sleeves and a torn bottom edge. His tail grasped a wooden magic wand with an obsidian star on the end.
"I came as soon as I felt that last tear in the dimensions," he said.
The Creator's eyes widened when she saw him. Faith began to edge behind me, and I tugged her behind the Creator's foot. Maybe the Mynci wouldn't notice us.
But that was when she replied, "You could've visited."
I let out the breath I'd been holding.
"I know you didn't kill my servant."
And I took it in again.
He shrugged, bowed and smiled gracefully all at the same time. "Of course not, Big Sister."
"Ah... Cerulean and Faith... Opal, if you'll show them to some spare rooms..."
We glanced at each other, shocked. But we let Opal lead us away. There'll be time for figuring all this out later.
But I couldn't even focus on my questions.
After all, this was our first time through the one wooden door. And maybe, just maybe, we were too relieved to care and there'd be time for them later anyways.
I took in the sensation of light magic running through me. At first it was just heat. Then I felt it working on my long-since fractured and improperly-healed wings. Crooked bones painlessly straightened out. Scarred, shocked muscles finally saw sweet relief.
Then I felt truly warm and fuzzy, but I hated it. Stop it! I silently screamed. Stop trying to heal my feelings! I don't want to feel better!
'Amadeus,' my only parent soothed. 'Let me heal what needs to be healed.'
'No, you're wrong! This isn't how I usually am! I'm always angry at and bored with life, but I'm feeling something else too right now!'
'Which is...?' Her brain-voice was laced with uncertainty.
'You can't tell?!'
'No. I can't.'
Frustration mounted inside of me. 'Hey, clueless! You have powers! Answer your own questions for once!'
'I would rather not delve deep into your heart. I have morals, you know.'
'Fine then! It's grief! You're immortal; what do you know about grief?!'
A moment's silence. And then, 'What can the immortal know about grief? We are few. You who I care about are so many, but so fading. I have watched generations of my messengers, children and friends die far from my touch. Every one of my people who is caught, every tear that falls from every eye on this planet, and every soul that goes from going through emotions to going through empty motions... I feel grief for living friends of mine who I cannot see. You are a miserable, frustrated person. I feel your pain: every single ounce of it a hundred fold.'
I thought for a second before coming up with a quick insult. 'You lost me at--'
'Oh. I know I didn't lose you. You heard ev-er-y-thing I just said. But I'll just go along with you, and guess what I'll say?'
'This is gonna sting, isn't it?'
'I have felt grief for you since you were born.'
A fissure ran down my heart. Guilt piled on my shoulders. Some distant part of me began to wail, adding to all the broken agony inside of me. She continued, 'Sometimes it seems to others like you're determined to be unhappy, but I know that's not the case. What the case is happens to be a million times worse. You've given up. You're too lazy to even accept that unless you do something about all this, nothing's going to happen. Sure you feel grief, but there are so many kind people out there capable of lifting it from you. You finally felt something like love a little while ago. Don't you want to feel it again?...'
I let my thoughts become still.
And then she asked, 'Would Dromiay have wanted this?'
'How do you know about Dromiay?!'
'Rubia told me a few moments back.'
I steamed in silence for several moments. And then I cracked. My clenched fists uncurled. The Creator's hand around me barely smothered my dire chokes and hot tears.
'How come when I finally find someone who remotely cares about me, she has to destroy herself?!' I raged.
'She did it for you, Amadeus.'
'Great. Now I hate myself.'
'You don't sound like you accept that.'
'It's because I already hated myself more than I could hate anything!'
'Why? Because you didn't have a life by now? Let it heal. Let yourself sleep through this pain. Let yourself heal yourself. You don't need magic... you need a life.'
My last hope, the only thought that could make me happy, returned to me. 'Magic! I'll have magic in the morning!'
'No, Amadeus. Stop trying to fool yourself. Power, sarcasm and bullying others will not make you feel like a person again. They are the reason you are broken.'
'No, they were the reason I lived.'
'I am dead serious, Amadeus. You tried some things to fix your boredom and loneliness. Even after you lost magic, you tried convincing yourself that you had something to live for. But all these tiny, tiny things added up. They weren't the remedy. They were the poison.'
'Tell me, what was it that made me finally snap? Do you even know what you're talking about?'
'Believe me, I know. You finally snapped after you kidnapped Faith. While you were running from Evre. When your conscience caught up to you, as my Messenger would put it. But you refused to acknowledge that it came.'
I convulsed. Shudders ran through me as the Creator's light magic frantically tried to calm my soul. Through the absolute comfort, I broke a sweat.
'Amadeus. It doesn't have to be this way. After this last, painful night, you will be free from yourself.'
And then I realized what I was really feeling.
'...Why... are you causing me... pain? Everything goes perfectly for everyone else... But I'm the one who loses the person I liked. I'm the one you hurt when you heal. I'm the one who doesn't have anything left. And all the while, my twin brother, the good twin, has his perfect life and perfect relationships with all his perfect friends... You know what? It hurts! It really hurts, and I've always been the villain!'
'You're wrong. The pain isn't me. The pain is you -- rearranging.'
'Rearranging into what?'
My soul was bleeding everywhere. This didn't feel right. This didn't feel heroic. All the guilt and wretchedness piling up on me at last... Was this really how I would become good?
'Yes. As long as you can make it through this one night, you will wake up a new person. Real heroes don't do it for the glory. Real heroes never have it easy.'
I sighed, accepting my fate. This night would last forever, and there was no point in struggling any longer.
'Faith never had it easy. And I don't think Dromiay did, either.'
I found myself standing in the midst of past chaos.
I stood among fallen bookcases. Identical, thick black books were strewn across an obsidian floor. I put a hand to my forehead and moaned. Why was I here? Hadn't I simply destroyed myself along with Benjai?
But there was more than destruction here. I saw a round table several yards away, and began to climb over the toppled bookshelves to reach it.
Two chairs lay on the floor. A figure with limp wings and matted lavender fur hunched over in a third, upright chair.
I stopped. The figure was trembling a little. "Um, excuse me?"
She lifted her head. And then she turned it, slowly, towards me. She was a Faerie Ixi, with shock written across her scarred, youthful face. She opened her mouth gently.
No words came out.
Her lips trembled and ears twitched, until finally, "...Ihh?"
I stepped back. How long had she been here?
A hand came down on my shoulder. I froze. It was thick, heavy, and familiar. Too familiar. The Ixi froze, too, except she managed to get it together and run off, screaming at the top of her lungs.
"Dromiay," Benjai hissed.
Not Exactly an End