Everything that defined my being. My very existence. Millions of atoms that culminated and formed the sentient person that was me.

All of them - ouch.

They were ouching. They were ouching really badly.

I don't remember fluttering my eyes wide open, I just knew that they were suddenly open, and blinking, and seeing.

Seeing light, mostly, a bright light. Adding significantly to the ouchy turmoil I was in.

Bright light at the end of the tunnel… could be that I was dying, or perhaps I was already dead.

Briefly, I entertained the thought, was partially convinced I was actually. Then the light that beamed at me started swaying about. Then suddenly I wasn't so sure anymore.

Closer it crept into my sights, and goddamn did it hurt my eyes. I tried cowering away, like a vampire to the sun, but instead, I ended up bashing the back of my head onto something hard.

Another ouch added to the list of things that ached. Life is pain.

I let out a hiss. A painful hiss that was reciprocated with a light chuckle. To my utter surprise, the light started talking.

"I don't bite, dude," it said in a rather amused inflection. "Besides, pretty sure you've been bitten enough times to last a lifetime anyway."

Ria's voice, Ria's light… glowing bright. I was alive… but why couldn't I…?

"I can't… I can't see you…" I said.

Speaking was a struggle, my voice crackled in my throat, and the words that came out were more of a croak than anything else.

The glimmer of orange tilted sideways. "Well… you did die, so…"

"I died?"

"97 seconds by my count," she said. "Even for us fantasy folks, that's a long time to stay dead."

Just… I was doing my best to comprehend the situation. I needed a moment to breathe, I needed a moment to - I needed to feel. I couldn't feel. Someone just told me that I died and yet I was feeling unusually calm about it. Why?

Where's my worry? My apprehension?

"You're a bit numb right now," Ria continued. "Emotionally, anyway. I could give you a cologne of Irene's scent and you'd stay as flaccid as a sausage. Don't worry, your senses will come back around eventually."

A bit of good news was that I still retained some basic motor functions. I could move my arm, have it stretched out in front of me. The only problem was that I couldn't see it.

Everything in sight just glimmered and glowed in rims of light.

"You brought me back?" I asked the flickering orange light.

I saw the orange sway quickly from side to side. Ria was shaking her head.

"Magnificent and glorious as I am, alas even I lacketh the strength of bestowing life. Meaning to say, you needed more than just a phoenix to bring you back. I wouldn't be able to do a thing on my own."

My emotions were gone. But you can bet your ass that confusion was the one thing that lingered.

"Who saved me, then?"

"Your Elf did," spoke a voice from somewhere in the distance.

Soon the glimmer of orange was joined by another. A darker, crimson shade took a place just beside it, bringing with it the unmistakable aroma of enticement.

"Clearly you weren't as special as you thought you were if you ended up dying," Irene's voice continued to speak out. "Still, somehow you were special enough to revert a frenzied back to normal. A feat that is nearly unheard of."

Right then, I wasn't even paying attention to what she was saying. All that I could focus on was the first thing she had said.

"Ash saved me?"

"Her and the Matriarch, actually," Irene explained. "If it weren't for them… well, just be glad the Matriarch suddenly had a change of heart towards you."

Like my vision, Irene's explanation was murky at best. I needed to know more. I wanted to know more. The way I was, I wasn't going anywhere… we had time.

"Tell me what happened."


It wasn't exactly the most grandiose of tales. Wasn't even one that lasted all that long.

The fact of the matter was - the plan actually worked. Adalia was saved. My far-fetched hunch was right on the money. The blood that dripped from my forearm had converted her back.

"You died, though," Ria bluntly pointed out again. "So it wasn't exactly an 'all's well that ends well' moment."

Yep. Wounded up dying in the process. My lack of emotions right now is telling me that it's really no biggie. Once they do return though… maybe a therapy session or two wouldn't hurt in the long run.

"The Elf was the first to get to you," said Ria, her orange glow swaying to a blurry unmoving silhouette far to the left of us. "Snapped out of the paralysis faster than anyone here."

Amelia came after as soon my consciousness started fading away, that I remembered. It was the last thing I saw. What transpired after in those 97 seconds, as they explained, were actions done without hesitation.

"Your Elf freaked out," said Ria with a bit of chuckle.

"She didn't freak," Irene said. "Took her only a second to snap out of the vampire's control. Didn't even take a moment to breathe, soon as she could, she was already shouting orders at the Matriarch."

"What was she shouting?" I asked.

Take my vitality.

That was what Ash shouted at Amelia.

There was a reason why Elves were the outliers. Why their species especially, were hunted and refashioned into the role of servitude. As Elf-Knights, they were both sword and shield to their masters. Fulfilling every whim, every desire without a second's hesitation.

And when such a time comes where the Master becomes bedridden or perhaps suffering from wounds beyond recovering… when death came knocking at the door…

"Elves are one of the only species capable of transferring their life force to another if they so choose," Irene said. "As servants, they don't really have a choice but to comply. The Master gets a second chance at life and in exchange, the Elf's lifespan is halved… or depending on how close to death the Master was, maybe even more so."

Long story short, you need a third party to channel the lifeforce from one person to the next. Species that are capable of that include Necromancers, Faeries, and of course…

"Matriarchs are the queens of those kinda stuff," Ria said. "Get one to be a channeler and you're pretty much good to go. In your case, you struck gold. She did it without any word of complaint."

97 seconds later. I took breath once more.

"But I was dead," I said, staring straight into the crimson sheen that was Irene. "If I was dead, then… her lifespan?"

"She's alive, sleeping..." Irene reassured me. "Don't worry about it. Yours is a special circumstance. She'll be alive for centuries to come. Your heritage, and since you have a Matriarch transferring, the Elf will be just fine."

"Or she could just simply drop dead tomorrow," Ria pointed out.

I glared at her, or at least, glared at the blotch that I thought was her. "Not helping."

"I know. Just kidding. Just wanted to see if your anger had returned or not. Just testing. If she was gonna die, she would have right then. The fact that she isn't means she's just fine. Your Terestra-ness has come through once again."

Somehow I had the feeling she was smirking at me. Couldn't prove it, but I knew she was.

"So now what?" I asked, blindly scouring the vicinity for anything else I could somewhat perceive.

I saw the outline of red extend upwards in length, saw it gradually drift away from sight, Irene's voice growing fainter as it did, "Your vision hasn't returned yet and everyone apart from us three is still unconscious. Now we rest - you rest… afterward, once you're good to go, we're leaving. For now, I'll go check if the barrier is down, be back soon."

A grating creak from a wooden door later, and Irene was gone both from sight and sound. Another shuffle of feet, and the glimmer that was Ria walked off into the distance, leaving me alone in the quiet. A quiet that allowed some things in mind to brew and fester.

Dying. It still hadn't really settled in yet. Was probably a good thing anyway. Death wasn't a concept I wanted my mental state to be dwelling onto anyway.

In time, I'll come to terms with it, I'm sure. My emotions will gradually return… that's what they said. What they failed to mention, however, was which emotion I'll be feeling first.

Guilt was like a prickle to the heart that just kept stabbing in deeper and deeper.

Left. That's where Ria had turned to when talking about Ash. My eyes stayed fixated on that direction, straining to focus, straining to see even just a glimmer of her on the hard concrete. I wanted to see her, wanted to know.

Was she still breathing? How did she look? It was irrational, I know. But for some reason, I just wanted to see her sleeping face. Perhaps if I could… perhaps the guilt I felt will just simply wash away.

Or perhaps it'll just get even worse.

"Feeling bad?"

Ria's voice broke apart the suffocating silence. The sound of her approach was just the distraction I desperately needed.

"Terrible," I answered her.

Again, somehow I could picture this scene of her nodding her head at me.

"Can you believe it's finally over?"

Her voice was close now, very close. There was a certain warmth that radiated from my right. Then I started feeling the presence of another taking up a spot just beside me.

I looked to the right. Ria's orange glimmer pierced brighter than any other.

"I mean, granted… it did come at a cost," Ria continued. "Actually, you came at a cost. Really… If you were anybody else, you'd have stayed as a martyr. Probably get a statue built in your honor or something."

"She shouldn't have done it…" I muttered, my eyes still fixated on the empty void where Ash laid. "She could have died... I didn't ask her to. Should have just - "

"Left you?" Ria suggested, the warmth of her breath dispersing across my cheek. "Funnily enough, I have this strange impression that she probably didn't ask you to come save her either."

When I didn't answer, she let out a faint chuckle.

"Kindred spirits, you and her, hmm? You guys are practically made for each other."

"The guilt is gonna eat her alive," I said. "The way she is… she'll think it's all her fault, and she'll put the blame all on her shoulders."

"Oh, there ain't no doubt about it. Elf-Knights are fickle when it comes to things like failure and dishonor. Once she awakens, you're going to be dealing with a complete and utter mess of an Elf."

From the very beginning, I knew that already. Countless times I had run the scenario in my head, over and over again, in that little dingy motel room. It was a can of worms I didn't want to deal with just yet. Later. What will come, will come, just… later…

"We'll get through it," I muttered. "Later."

"Sure you will, I know you will," Ria answered. "It's only a matter of when, isn't it? Will it take a couple of days, weeks? Maybe months, years? It's going to be a big rock on the bridge between you two. Think you'll be able to sort it out before that bridge breaks?"

"I said," I turned towards her, feeling all of the sudden the familiar, burning emotion take hold of my voice - anger finished my sentence. "later…"

Was able to meet her eyes finally, a little vague outline in a sea of white light… Then I was able to see her nose, her lips - see it take shape, forming into a small smile.

Another test.

"Okay," she said, nodding her head. "Later then..."

Tap the screen to use advanced tools Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between chapters.

You'll Also Like