Gareth woke to find himself floating upon the surface of water so clear he could see all the way to the bottom, deep below. He was aware that he was dreaming. He felt neither warm nor cold, but surrounded with comfort, as if lying upon a bed of softest down. All around him were the grey rock walls of the cave in which the pool was nestled. Shaggy stalactites hung from the cave roof high above his head, sparkling in the ambient light infusing the space.
He drifted for a time; his mind quiet, a sound gradually penetrating his awareness. He idly identified it as water trickling down the walls of the cave. It soothed him.
He felt himself gently sinking, though he experienced no fear. The water held him like his mother’s arms. He heard her singing softly and felt safe and loved. He drifted downward, breathing easily, eyes avidly taking in the sparkling, crystalline structure surrounding him. Down, down, until he rested softly on the watery bottom of the pool.
Light filled him, so bright he had to close his eyes. He discovered as he did so that the light was within him as much as outside of him, and closing his eyes did nothing to damp its glory.
With the light, he felt love pour into him and spread outward from him. Love and joy such as he had never known. It lifted and carried him, expanding him outward, leaving the cave far behind. He saw a great, shining web of light stretching out around him in every possible direction. He knew without thought that he was a part of this web of light, a part of this expression of the One.
His vision shifted and he was sitting on the huge rock where he had played as a younger. The sun was shining golden white in an impossibly blue sky as morning fliers twittered in the trees. As he breathed in his nostrils filled with the sweet, rich, earth smell that permeated the air all around him. Looking about he saw the Guardian, Ell, sitting beside him. A beautiful blue-white light shone from her, outlining her carnelian ridged head and wings folded upon her back.
He placed his hands together before his heart and bowed his head. Pink light washed up from her chest to surround him. He felt a wave of joyous tingling rushing up and down his spine, his arms and even the outside of his legs. The feeling was so intense that all he could do was close his eyes and breathe it in, gasping great lungful’s of sweet air. He wanted nothing more than to fill himself with the bliss of that love.
Gradually the waves of tingling subsided and he opened his eyes to look adoringly at Ell.
You have served me well, Gareth. In serving me you serve the One. You now have a choice. You may stay here, or you may return. Either way you serve the One.
Gareth heard her mind voice with delight. He breathed deeply of the rich earth, feeling the sun warm upon his face as he closed his eyes. He felt peaceful; an expansive sensation of love permeated his being. He was sorely tempted to stay.
Sweet singing wafted gently to his ears. Ah, my mother, and he listened as the music surrounded him.
His thoughts drifted. If he stayed, he realized he could never return to Mina. He felt a sudden deep sadness at the loss of what could have been, and was surprised by a vision of a cozy cottage in the woods. He looked closely and there was Mina, sitting in the sun on a bench beside the front door of the cottage. Her skirts were tucked about her feet and curling strands of hair framed her lovely face. She bounced a plump and laughing baby on her lap. She looked at him, then smiled with such love that he thought his heart might explode.
He longed for the vision to return, like the longing for a sweet dream awoken from too soon.
The smell of rich, damp earth brought his thoughts back and he realized that if he stayed in this beautiful place, not only would he lose his chance at a life with Mina, but Lisle and the Guardian would travel in danger without him.
Now he felt the pain of staying as an intense, red, throbbing ache in his side that traveled all the way down into his legs.
Gareth startled awake, his eyes flying open. He moved, throwing the blanket back, groaning with the effort, and Lisle was there beside him, helping him.
“Praise the One. Y…you’re b…b…back.”
Gareth looked up to see relief and joy flooding Lisle’s hovering face. He grimaced a smile, and eased his painful side into another position.
A loud chittering blasted his ears. Scolding, Moss fought her way out from under the blanket inadvertently thrown over her in Gareth’s attempt to get comfortable.
“She h…hasn’t left y…your suh..suh..side.”
Gareth’s lips twitched upward. He was relieved to be back, glad to be alive. His eyes fluttered shut even as he tried to keep them open, and he was asleep.
Fal curled his long, darkly scaled tail and tucked it between muscled forearms, long, ivory talons clicking on the stone beneath him. He sank deep into the blackness behind his eyelids. Quickly, before the awful voices found him, he turned his mind’s eye to look in the direction of Darkling Forest. There he saw a blaze of light. My humans have failed! The Guardian, Ell, lives!
Fiery anger consumed him. He threw back his head, opened great, toothed jaws and released a roar of rage toward the ceiling of his cave. Pebbly grit loosed from the cave walls and ceiling, rattling downward to land unheeded around him.
The Guardian still travels to the mountain. I will stop her. There will be no Unification!
Calming, the Fallen willed himself back down into the inky depths. He searched further, seeking not the blaze of indigo of the Guardian, but a murky, brownish light, just this side of black. There! The Hunter. He had no other name.
Fal came upon the Hunter several years ago in his meditations. The dark, brownish hue, almost as dark as his own, hinted that this one might be of use to him. He kept watch over the Hunter’s movements, waiting for the time to come, when he would have need of him.
He knew it would be a risk. A light like this one could never be trusted. The Hunter did not fear pain or death. He did not fear the Fallen. He feared only boredom, that grating, deadening sameness. Fal would have to entice the Hunter, offer him what he lived for - the excitement of the hunt.
Fal refocused his mind to find the small, bluish light that was Tim, and he called.
In case you missed a post, or if you've just tuned in to Lisle's story,
here are links to previously posted chapters to save you scrolling all the way through.
Introduction Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13
Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22