Many days after the death of the Teala of Darkness, Miriel and Sirion find out that their world is still doomed. They begin to search for the Lord of the Heavens, who holds the knowledge of the universe. Miriel’s visions reveal to her that the Teala of Darkness has been reborn and is in need of their protection. But Lian, Caylen’s demonic friend, seeks its life. Will they succeed in stopping Lian from killing the reborn Teala of Darkness and plunging the world into chaos? Can they bring peace to Aeriya once and for all?
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Copyright © 2019 – Searose Fantasy
Raiffeisenstr. 4, 74360 Ilsfeld, Germany
First Edition: November 2019
Cover: Searose | www.searose.de
Autor: Stephanie Rose
All rights reserved. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author/publisher, except where permitted by law, or in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Lian looked back, furious, and murmured something incomprehensible. In the distance he could still see the palace he had called his own – his home – until a short while ago.
You all will pay for this, I swear! he thought angrily and clenched his fists. Then he pulled his hood deeper over his face to keep the sunlight from his skin. He took care that no part of his skin was exposed to the sun, not even for an instant, but for one moment it did burn on his naked hand and made him wince. A stabbing pain ran through his body and he grimaced.
Carefully he stroked the aching back of his hand. Damn! he swore in his thoughts and squinted his eyes to slashes. How can it be that I, the great ruler of my people, possess such an immense weakness? He looked to the ground. I, who possessed everything for a short time and was so close to fulfilling all of my dreams? And though I have studied the most secret and the darkest of the arts, why was I unable to find something to eliminate this weakness and rid me of this curse?
When he thought about it, it was a miracle that none of his subordinates had become the least bit suspicious, and a weak demonic grin flitted over his lips.
He was a master of deception. Ever since he could remember, it had been quite easy for him to deceive others and make them believe whatever he wanted. This gift had also allowed him to implement his seemingly impossible plan to overthrow the previous ruler of the demon race, Inaris.
A stabbing pain in his head eventually threw him back to reality and he grimaced.
With a fast pace he continued on his way and tried to spy a shadowy place in the bare desert landscape of his homeland, somewhere that could provide protection to him until evenfall, when the sun finally vanished over the horizon.
All in vain. Wearily he came to a stop and let his head hang. Again, his thoughts slid back into the past.
But my greatest weakness was you … The thought crossed his mind. Leyla … my beloved … A weary sigh came over his lips when he thought back. He had lost everything that had ever meant anything to him, everything he had fought so hard for, everything he had protected for so long. All that was left now were memories, feelings and a hatred that had grown multiple times over in the past few days since Leyla’s and then Caylen’s death, and was now threatening to overwhelm him.
“All of this is your fault, Caylen,” he pressed out between gritted teeth and clenched his fists. But then he realized that he wouldn’t have come this far without Caylen, and the anger inside him began to burn even hotter. He was angry at himself, his situation and his environment, but it was the injustice of the world he detested the most.
Again and again he asked himself why Caylen’s sister and her fellows had tried so desperately to destroy the only good thing he had wanted to accomplish in his long life.
He looked to the sandy ground and blinked the tears from his eyes. Then he looked up again and stared with a firm gaze into the distance.
“You might have restored the equilibrium and undone all my efforts, but I will find a way to achieve my goal!” he shouted into the desert. “This world will end!”
Sirion stared out the window, bored, and looked at the clouds that covered the sun at irregular intervals and threw wandering shadows over the earth.
For a few days now it had been difficult for him to relax or concentrate on his tasks and his studies. Just like in previous days, his thoughts began to wander off, and every time he tried to direct them, everything faded away.
He let his head hang and winced, barely noticeably, when his forehead met the chilly glass of the window. A quiet sigh escaped his throat and he eventually turned away.
Since Therun had been rebuilt and his mentor Rayan had been appointed its new leader, Sirion had begun to dedicate himself to the study of the Other World again, hoping that he would remember what he thought lost. Deep inside he could feel that the answer was hiding somewhere in his studies.
His gaze slid over the wide plain that lay deep below the walls of Therun and ranged to the horizon. The distant trees, barely visible to the naked eye, gradually began to lose their green leafy dress and embraced the steel glossing rouge of the setting sun.
Sirion frowned when his thoughts turned once more to his many unanswered questions, and he wearily looked at the floor.
Yasu … he thought, saddened. I wish I could ask you all the questions I am dying to ask. You know the answers, don’t you? You know what I’m looking for. Help me, please …
“Are you lost in thought again?” a deep, friendly voice said behind him, making Sirion jerk around. Embarrassed, he stroked the hair from his face when he realized that it was only Master Rayan talking to him.
“Yes and no,” he answered slowly and turned towards the window again. “Something’s unsettling me. Something … no, I’ve forgotten what it is.” He shook his head and rubbed his forehead. “Master …”
Sirion fell silent and held his breath for a moment. No, I cannot tell you any of this, he thought and sighed internally. When he had returned to Therun, he had sworn to himself to keep everything concerning the Teala and the tears of the unicorns secret. The less Rayan or anybody else knew about this, the better, he thought.
Rayan seemed to understand and stayed silent. He knew Sirion was keeping a secret and smiled at him encouragingly. He, too, knew the oppressive feeling this burden brought with it.
Sirion wearily stroked the hair from his face and walked over to the small table, on which a handful of scrolls and thick, old books lay.
“What are you studying?” Rayan asked curiously and followed him. His gaze passed over the scrolls and he nodded understandingly. “You shouldn’t leave these chronicles lying around for anyone to see. This knowledge is dangerous. Please do not give me any reason to regret granting you access to it.”
Sirion nodded apologetically and hurriedly packed the books and scrolls up in his leather bag. “I will continue my studies in my quarters,” he said and looked Rayan in the eyes. “Thank you.”
He bowed and left the archive at a fast pace.
I cannot bear this threatening feeling! Sirion thought and shook his head wildly. Grinding his teeth, he entered his quarters and threw the bag carelessly onto the desk to his right, then he stepped over to the window and stared outside. The waterfall that rumbled into the deep carried his agitated thoughts away and allowed him to calm down again.
In the last few days, Lian had finally managed to feel out the whereabouts of the box. It seemed an eternity ago that he and Caylen had worked out that it must be residing in Europe, a huge continent in the world of the mortals.
His search would now finally come to an end, he hoped.
Even though he couldn’t control the power of the box to create a new, fairer world order himself, he at least wanted to bring the world as it was now to its end. He couldn’t bear to see how innocents lost their lives because they were different in origin or nature. He had to end this.
Lian had finally reached the place where he thought the box was hidden, in Southern Europe. His heart began to beat faster as he imagined that his wish would soon be fulfilled.
With eyes full of expectation, he looked out over the deep valley at his feet that ranged to the horizon. Somewhere around here the box was hidden.
“Soon it will be done,” he mumbled to himself and a demonic smile sneaked onto his lips. And then I’ll see you again on the other side, my beloved Leyla. I will find you and together we’ll hope for a new life in a better world. A world where we’re equal. With this thought, he began to move again and followed the narrow mountain trail down into the valley.
The descent was dangerous and troublesome, he discovered, because the trail had disappeared in many places. Deep holes, carved in the rock by falling stones, now gaped along its length, and Lian realized that this trail had not been used for a long time, meaning that the box could still be hidden here after all this time.
His heart began to beat fast when he left the trail and walked quickly out onto the plain. Soon the box would be his, he felt.
In the distance he could see moving figures that didn’t seem to be animals. Lian came to a halt and discovered to his amazement that his presence seemed to be causing panic, because the figures began to move around wildly.
Only now could he make out small buildings in the distance that blended in with the rough and stony environment of the plain, hiding whoever or whatever was living inside them.
Humans, he thought, disgusted, and continued on his way again.
From this distance the people couldn’t possibly identify who or what he was, and strangers had to be a rarity around here. This led him to the conclusion that they were protecting a great secret – a secret that he was about to fathom.
Lost in thought, Fidell stared into the distance and wished for time to stop so that these moments of peace could last forever.
Since she had arrived with Maiya in Len’Nenia, innumerable days had passed and she could feel ever more clearly that something inside her was changing. The more time she spent with the elves, the more she became one of them.
Just then, Maiya appeared, pulling her from her thoughts and making Fidell look at her in surprise. Fidell hadn’t noticed her coming and she frowned.
“Soon the time will come!” Maiya cried in excitement and happily clapped her hands. “Soon you’ll complete your training to become a healer!” She smiled, full of joy, and cocked her head, but Fidell made no effort to reply.
Fidell looked to the ground and nodded slowly. She remembered the day when she had arrived in Ceven with Elantris, who had asked Cerin to teach her the art of healing before she could begin her training to become a mage. So now the time had come when she would have to leave her newly gained family and friends behind. Tears began to burn in her eyes, but she managed to hold them back and instead wiped a smile onto her lips.
“Are you not happy about this?” Maiya asked hesitantly and swept the hair from her face. She could feel that Fidell was trying to hide something from her.
“Of course I'm happy!” she replied quickly and clapped her hands with a wide grin. She didn’t want Maiya to become suspicious and notice her grief.
“Cerin told me your knowledge goes deeper than that of any other human who has ever tried to understand our ways. It’s almost as if you’re one of us. You’re truly blessed by Gaia.” Maiya’s eyes were sparkling with pride and she couldn’t deny herself a laugh. “I’ve known since our first encounter that you are someone special!”
Fidell blushed slightly and kneeled down to attend to the bundle of herbs she had placed on a leather scarf to dry in the sun. She turned the individual leaves and blossoms, trying to order her thoughts and banish the grief that was burdening her heart.
Soon after, Maiya fell silent again and now Fidell was sure she could feel the pain she kept hidden inside her heart. Since they had arrived together in Len’Nenia, the bond of friendship between the two of them had grown even more, and Maiya had eventually agreed to form the bond that made them sisters. They had performed an ancient ritual – one that had not been performed in nearly two millennia between an elf and a human: a blood-oath.
Fidell let her thoughts wander and remembered Cerin’s overjoyed face when he had welcomed her safe and sound to Len’Nenia after all this time. She had arrived here with Maiya on her back, completely exhausted and all but sure that she would not be welcome. To her surprise, however, Maiya really had been true to her word and had given everything to make the elves accept her. But only when Fidell had reunited with Meera and Cerin had she been sure that everything would be alright and she could call Len’Nenia her new home.
However, despite everything, Fidell still felt strange in this paradisiac place, and the more Maiya and Meera tried to explain to her that she was welcome, the more she doubted it.
She sighed internally and hoped Maiya would overlook her feelings and wouldn’t confront her with them. This was something she had to come to terms with on her own, she knew that. Just leave me alone for the moment, I beg you, she thought, saddened, but she didn’t dare to speak her thoughts frankly.
She looked up and gazed at Maiya, who was examining her and her movements closely, as if she wanted to read her thoughts. She cocked her head when Maiya kneeled in front of her and placed her hands on Fidell’s.
“Do I have something on my face?” Fidell asked, frowning, and wiped her hand over her face, but Maiya didn’t let herself be distracted. Eventually, a smile flitted over her lips that Fidell returned.
“I know what you were thinking about,” Maiya said after a few moments and looked Fidell deep in the eyes. “I can feel the pain you’re trying to hide. We are sisters now, do not forget this. I will be with you always. You’re not alone.”
Fidell smiled and nervously stroked her hair. She knew Maiya was right, but she also knew that to complete her training to become a mage she had to return to Therun, and she had to go there alone. Elven magic was different from that of humans, and because of this she couldn’t ask Cerin to teach her that art as well. She was sure Maiya didn’t know of this and decided to keep it secret until she had to leave for Therun. It was enough that she alone would have to give in to her sorrow, she thought.
“Let’s go back, evening will fall soon,” Maiya said after a few moments and pulled Fidell from her thoughts. “Come!”
Smiling, she extended her hand towards Fidell, but Fidell simply shook her head and gazed at the herbs that were still lying on the leather scarf in front of her.
“Not yet,” she replied with a sad smile. “Give me a little more time. I will follow you shortly.”
Maiya nodded, understanding, and hesitantly turned away. She knew Fidell was using the herbs as an excuse to dwell with her thoughts a little while longer and indulge herself in her grief.
Why do you not speak to me about what’s distressing you? I cannot bear to see you like this … she thought, saddened, but she honoured Fidell’s wish and hoped that one day she would come to her by herself.
“I will wait for you in front of the cave!” she said and walked away.
Fidell looked after her and eventually turned towards the valley again, which stretched away from her as far as the eye could see. The sun gradually sank down towards the horizon and dipped everything in its golden light. Fidell closed her eyes and enjoyed the last moments of warmth that the sun threw on her face. Then the sun was gone and it left behind a bright red sky that slowly darkened.
I’ll truly miss this place … she thought, and sighed. But will they still welcome me in Therun after all that has happened? Will they even remember me? Will Sirion recognize me after all this time? Suddenly it began to dawn on her that no one in Therun knew of Elantris’s death, and she cringed. A saddened sigh passed over her lips when she tried to imagine how she would be received in Therun, and she hoped desperately to find the same warmth there that she had in Len’Nenia.
Tears began to burn in her eyes and she blinked. Then she shook her head and rubbed her forehead. “I cannot think like that,” she whispered with a shaking voice, scarcely audibly. I mustn’t soil the memory of Elantris. I must fulfill my vow. I need to be strong and complete my training, no matter what,and then I can return to this place as soon as possible. I must learn to control this gift, and maybe one day I’ll find a way to use it safely and see you all again … Mum, Dad … Taia … I miss you all so much …
A single tear ran down her cheek and she gulped strongly to get herself under control. Then she turned towards the herbs and packed them carefully into small jars, which she stored inside her leather bag.
Again, doubts rose in her.
“Don’t think about that … try to concentrate on keeping your promise … nothing else matters,” she mumbled to herself and touched her chest. “Complete your training and you can return to this place … as fast as possible.”
Yes … this is how it should be, she thought and came to the decision to leave Len'Nenia as soon as she had completed her training to become a healer. She gazed at the sky one last time before she got up and headed back.
Miriel stared with big eyes into the distance and tried to suppress the shiver that shook her body. Tears were burning in her eyes and she blinked.
It was still not over.
Why? she thought desperately and touched her chest. Her heart was racing.
She had fulfilled her task – the Grail was freed from its curse and the world was saved – but they had disregarded something of grave importance, something that could negate their past efforts: the breaching of the Circle of Life. Miriel knew there wasn’t much time left to avert the dawning end of their world and she decided to ask Sirion for his help once again. With him at her side, she was sure to be able to do it.
Deep inside her she could hear a quiet, morbid voice crying for redemption. She wanted to forget all the sorrow and pain she had had to bear on her search for the Grail and the tears of the unicorns,and instead to look ahead, but her visions threw her back into the dark hole she had emerged from with great effort over the past days.
It pained her. It pained her so much that her heart slowly began to break and she gulped strongly. She knew it was this very desperation that, in the end, had driven her brother Caylen mad, and she shivered.
I’m afraid of the future, she thought, scared, and wiped the tears from her eyes with her shaking hands. Slowly, she calmed down again and breathed deeply.
“What distresses you, Miriel, Keeper of Light?”
Miriel jerked around, startled, and saw Raphael, who gave her an encouraging smile.
“This sad face doesn’t suit you,” he said playfully when Miriel made no effort to reply.
“Forgive me,” she eventually mumbled and looked to the ground, saddened. Since she had given him the tears of the unicorns and broken the curse that had almost cost him his life, the bond of friendship between the two of them had grown much stronger.
Raphael could feel the deep wounds her heart had suffered during the task she had endured and, after his own recovery, he had made it his duty to help Miriel handle the past and Caylen’s death.
Miriel turned away from him and looked into the distance. His presence gave her new strength and a weak smile flitted over her lips.
“You’ve had a vision,” Raphael eventually noticed and squinted his eyes, watching carefully every one of her movements. “What did you see?”
Miriel jerked around and looked at him with wide-open eyes. It almost seemed to her that Raphael could see her deepest thoughts and worries and read her like an open book.
“This is my gift, my curse,” he said, smiling, and came closer. “I can feel your pain.” He placed his hands on her shoulders and pushed them gently. “Trust me, I’m on your side. Whatever you may have seen, I will help you to get through this. You’re not alone.”
Miriel blushed slightly and looked shyly to the ground. “Thank you …” she mumbled, but she decided not to tell Raphael about her vision. His gentle heart, like hers, had suffered a lot of grief and sorrow and she didn’t want to burden him with her own pain. Raphael had become a dear friend to her and she wanted to keep him from future grief.
“Forgive me, but I cannot talk about it,” she said certainly and stepped back before looking him in the eyes again. “Thank you very much for all you’ve done for me. Your presence gives me strength. We will see each other again, Raphael, healer of broken hearts.”
She smiled, turned away from him and walked away.
Lord, I beg you … give me the strength to walk this way once again and finally bring peace to this world, she begged and looked with a firm gaze into the distance. She would once again go to Aeriya and fight the destiny she had seen, with Sirion, once and for all.
Snow-white wings broke free from her back and she became airborne.
Raphael looked after her and hoped that she would find the strength to carry on to the very end, without falling for the darkness as her brother had.
A lot of time had passed since Miriel last visited the world of her charge, and even more time had passed since she last talked to him. She remembered their last encounter, when Sirion had finally understood who she really was, so she no longer had to hide her magic.
“Miriel?” Sirion blinked in surprise and a wide grin came over his lips when he spotted her standing in the doorway of his quarters. “What are you doing here?”
His heart began to beat faster and he nervously stroked the long hair from his face. Many days had passed – too many, in Sirion’s eyes – since he had last seen her and he had almost forgotten what she looked like. Her beautiful blue eyes and the blazing aura surrounding her put him under her spell again and he blinked to free himself of it.
He missed the old times when they were together, on the move, trying to save the world, and he found himself wishing they were back in that time, if only to know that Miriel was at his side again.
She examined him closely and eventually closed the wooden door of his quarters with a quiet creak. “A long time has passed,” she began and walked over to the window, “since we banished the menace that threatened to end our world. However, we missed something of grave importance.” She kept silent for a few moments. “I’ve seen it, the end of the world.”
“What are you talking about?” he asked, puzzled, and gestured to her to sit down. He sat down opposite her and the fireplace came to life, as if by magic, and gave the room additional light and warmth.
Sirion squinted his eyes and cocked his head. Then he pressed his fingertips together and placed his chin on them. Did she know the answers he was so desperately searching for? What it was that was bothering him?
“I had a vision. The Holy Grail cannot hold the equilibrium and close the Circle forever. If we don’t do something about it soon, all our pain, all our sacrifices will have been in vain …”
Tears glittered in her eyes when she spoke these words and the image of her brother passed in front of her inner eye.
“The circle?” Sirion frowned and squinted his eyes again. His thoughts were racing, but he didn’t know what Miriel was talking about.
The circle … he repeated in his thoughts and a few moments later his eyes widened.
“The Circle of Life? Is that what you mean?” He nodded in understanding and his heart began to beat faster when he realized that this was the answer he had been vainly searching for all this time.
She nodded and thought about where to begin. “When the Teala of Darkness was killed and …” She stopped for a moment and looked to the floor, then she breathed deeply and eventually looked Sirion directly in the eyes. “… and my brother tried to kill the other Teala as well, the equilibrium of life and death – what you also call the Circle of Life – was breached. Do you remember? Back when we thought everything was lost.”
She paused and examined Sirion closely.
“Yes, I remember …” He nodded slowly and rubbed his forehead. How could I forget something of such importance? he thought wearily and sighed.
“Without the Circle, no being can really die and no other can give life. The chaos that will result from this will eventually kill us all, because the dead will begin to walk this earth, and I believe you know what that means.”
Sirion gulped strongly and shivered. Miriel was right. Without the Circle of Life, they were lost. He knew the tales, but he didn’t know what they could do to change their destiny and stop their impending deaths.
He stepped towards a high shelf and began to search for a book, but he couldn’t find what he was looking for.
“Of course!” he said and turned towards Miriel again. “In all the mess and with your impending death, I completely forgot about this! I was solely fixed on saving you and keeping the world from ending! How could I forget something so crucial?”
Appalled, he began to walk in circles.
“I should have concentrated more, should have paid more attention to what was happening … It’s my fault that it has come to this,” he said guiltily. This is why Yasu would never have accepted me. As Lord of the Heavens and guardian of all knowledge, it is only natural that I should think about all these things. I have failed … I have neither proven myself worthy, nor have I managed to do what we set out to do.
Wearily, he let his head hang and came to a halt.
“What can we do?” he asked helplessly and looked at Miriel.
“We have to leave again and find the Lord of the Heavens. I am sure he knows the answer,” Miriel said hesitantly.
Sirion didn’t seem to be too convinced and deep wrinkles drew over his forehead.
“Sirion, the knowledge of the universe resides within him. If he doesn’t know the answer, then no one does. He is our only hope!”
“There is nothing to fear.” Cerin tried to calm Fidell when he noticed the shaking of her body. “Calm down. I’ve taught you everything I know. You were a wonderful and very inquisitive student. I have no doubt that you’ll answer my questions without much effort.” He smiled to support his words.
Fidell looked at him uncomprehendingly and didn’t dare to open her mouth. Only with great effort was she able to suppress the shivering of her hands by pressing them together. What would happen if she didn’t know the answers to Cerin’s questions? She shivered as she thought of the bitter disappointment that she would surely see in Cerin’s eyes should she fail this test, and she wished for nothing more than just to run away.
Maiya sat down on a small mound and smiled at Fidell encouragingly. She knew she was up to Cerin’s questioning.
“It’s not like you’ll get punished if you give a wrong answer,” she finally interjected when she realized that Cerin’s attempts to calm her down were failing, but instead this made Fidell even more nervous.
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