The Aftermath Of Mount Woe Chapter 38
Schala was dead. She knew that, and accepted it, before attempting to gather her surroundings. She was a swirling, shapeless form in a dark void, glowing faintly green. She felt other presences nearby. They seemed to be speaking.
'Now she's dead again too?'
'I swear, they must be the most tragic couple ever created.'
'What are you talking about?' She demanded of the darkness. She got no response, although one entity seemed to be moving closer.
'Don't be afraid. Nothing can hurt you here.'
'Greven?' She asked hopefully.
'Of course. I see Zeal got you too.'
'Yes.' She would have sighed, if she had found a way. 'Are we in the lifestream?'
'No actually. This is someplace quite different.'
'How do you know all this stuff?' She was surprised.
'I've been well informed by someone I believe you'll be glad to see. I mean, feel. Um, sense?'
Another mass of swirling green appeared in the darkness. 'I'm sorry Schala.'
'Father?' Her thoughts trembled.
'Since when are you so formal?'
'So this isn't the lifestream?' Her tension eased.
'No. We're too high in the grand scheme of things to have our soul energy mixed with a dozen other beings and poured into something new. This is sort of the afterlife for the heroes of the ages.'
'Oh. For some reason, I feel like I should be in the lifestream.'
'That's probably because you took command of it once, to stop a great disaster. But you came straight back here right after.'
'What's going on? I don't remember anything like that.'
'Of course not. That was a previous life. You lose all memory of all your previous lives whenever you start a new one. You should start remembering in just a few moments though.'
Greven's voice drifted through the darkness. 'I am starting to see something. A cloud?'
'Ah yes, they're usually quite symbolic at first. What are you getting Schala?'
'Nothing yet.' She said, still confused.
'Oh here we go.' Greven said. 'Whoah! Man, I am so screwed up. Schala and I-'
'Wait! She needs to remember for herself.'
'I'm not seeing anything.'
'Oh no.' Vigo whispered.
'She's bringing her back! God no!' Vigo's mist began swirling rapidly. He was clearly agitated. 'Zeal, if there's any humanity left in you, don't bring her back!!!'
* * *
Zeal stared, unfeeling, at the burned out husk of Schala's body. All three gurus had arrived by now, and stood, numb with pain, at the doorway where the collapsed tower had fallen down to. Zeal looked at Dalton, who was holding his side, but looking very much alive. "I believe there is one more task for you." She said.
"Can't it wait a little while? I'm not exactly feeling on top of things at the moment." Dalton argued, then winced with pain.
"You know what must be done." She said forcefully. She said no more, but Dalton's eyes widened in shock.
"No! That's too terrible, even for me!"
"You fool! I was hoping I wouldn't have to kill her. Now I'm going to have to go through a lot of trouble!" Then, a reddish orange beam of light came out of Zeal's forhead, and impacted into Dalton's, knocking him over.
"Aaugh!!" He held his head in his hands. "No! I won't! They're not the enemy!..." He stopped abruptly. "Yes, your majesty. It shall be as you have ordered." Then he turned and left ground zero. The gurus watched him go, not saying anything.
"Well now. We're going to have to bring her back." Zeal said simply. "Bring me a Nu."
"Huh? What for?" Gaspar asked suspiciously, fear and hatred mixing in his voice.
"Just do it!" She yelled. "I'm not in the mood for your bumbling incompetence!"
"Very well." Gaspar said darkly. He concentrated, and a sleeping Nu appeared in the rubble.
Everyone involved was surprised when the flowing mass of lava reappeared from the floor, engulfing the Nu. It never woke up. As the lava retreated, a bubbling, black ooze was left. Zeal made a slight gesture, and it burbled over to Schala, covered her, then entered her body through any orifice it could find. All her wounds, both fatal and minor, began to close up, and amazingly, she started to stir.
Despite his horror at the situation, Belthasar couldn't help but be fascinated at the same time. "Amazing. So all life begins with Nu and ends with Nu."
"Yes." Zeal said simply. "And she's going to be needing a treatment like this about once a month. Damn that fool Dalton. If he hadn't impaled her, I could have tamed her without killing her."
"You're going to sacrifice a Nu every month?" Gaspar asked, appalled.
"To keep her alive, yes."
"That's just going to make her feel even worse!" Zeal remained silent.
Now Schala began mumbling. "No... Let me stay... Father, Greven, don't leave me!" She cried out, then coughed and rose weakly to her knees, before half-collapsing again.
"Welcome back Schala. You had us worried there."
She looked around through confused eyes. "Me too. I thought I was going to die."
"Oh, you did die." Zeal said nonchalantly.
Schala's eyes went wide as memories quickly came flooding back. "Greven! Why did you kill him, mother?" She asked in a small, scared voice.
"He would have gotten you pregnant dear. There's no need for you to ever have children. Why you could have been pregnant not an hour ago!"
Schala could still almost feel the fire raging throughout the inside of her body. "I guess we'll never know now, will we?" She asked, but not bitterly. There was no bitterness in her voice, only malleable compliance. She began coughing suddenly, and a black dust flew from her mouth. Her eyes widened with fright again. "To what degree am I alive?"
"Enough to function. Enough to use Lavos' magic. That's all."
Schala sighed, but then looked up, questioningly. "Wait. What did you mean there's no need for me to ever have children? You mean you would have done this even if I was twenty five? But why? We've got the resources... Don't I need an heir to carry on the family line?"
"I won't have you suffer through childbirth! You don't need an heir if you're going to live forever!" Their was a collective gasp from the gurus. "That's right, we're all going to become immortal!" The gurus expected Schala to put up an enthusiastic argument, but she just collapsed to the floor, and seemed to fall asleep.
"She'll be needing some rest. Get her to a bed somewhere." The gurus nodded and hurried to obey. Zeal surveyed the destruction as they left, and cursed to herself. A true thouroughbred with a fine spirit must be tamed, but never broken. As she stared at some oddly colored flecks of charcoal on the floor, she knew the worst had happened.
Schala had been broken.
Ertai's anger was so great that he could barely walk. All he could think of was the scorched remains of Greven's body. He could only think one thought: Schala will avenge him. Schala must avenge him. He didn't notice as a white glow flashed in front of him. He didn't notice as a dozen soldiers deployed around him. He didn't notice anything until he bumped into someone. Through anger filled eyes, he could barely make out Dalton glaring at him. "What do you want?" He asked in the most venom filled voice any of the soldiers had ever heard.
"I have an order, and I must carry it out." Dalton grimaced. "I must... carry it out!"
"Can't you say anything else?" His hands began to glow with a yellow light.
Dalton seemed to hold his head for a minute, but then his hands began to glow in response. "Well then," Ertai began simply, "I guess its up to me to finally kill you!! Aaaaaaahhh!!!" Lightning flowed freely from Ertai's outstretched hands, and the battle was joined.
Vuel sat up in bed deep inside the Vecar cave, instantly alert. Sounds of battle drifted in from outside. He jumped out of bed and began to buckle his armor on. "What's going on?" Hanna called from the bed.
"Sounds like a fight outside. Probably some drunks in a brawl, but I better check it out."
"Wake me up when its over."
"Probably won't need to bother." He said, checking his sword. "See you later." Walking down the tunnel, he noticed several of the childrens' doors were open. As he stepped outside the cave entrance, he was very surprised to see smoke in the air. He heard swords clashing in the distance, so it wasn't just a brawl, as he had thought. As he began to hurry down the system of tunnels, he saw a figure limping through the smoke. "Vhati! Son, what's happening?!"
As the boy came closer, Vuel saw that his face was covered with blood. There was a gaping wound in his side, severely limiting his movement. "Dalton is back." He gasped with pain. "His soldiers... beat the hell out of me. Ertai... he tried to..."
"Ertai is here? Where is he?" Vuel offered a supporting arm, which Vhati didn't seem to notice.
"He stood against Dalton... I don't know if he... ugh..." Vhati sank to the ground, face first.
"Vhati, get up! What's the matter?" As Vuel reached down, he saw a dagger protruding from Vhati's back. "God's blood." He croaked in a weak voice. "Why isn't Greven here helping?!"
"Greven's dead." Vhati said, blood flowing from his mouth. "Get Dalton for us, Da'." Then, he lost conciousness. Without a mage to heal him, it was very doubtful that he would live.
"I'll find Dalton, and force him to heal you!" Vuel yelled. He drew his sword and charged down the tunnel. As he drew closer to the sound of the battle, he saw many of the Algetty residents fighting Dalton's soldiers. In the center of the melee were Ertai and Dalton. Dalton clearly had the upper hand, but Ertai looked determined to fight to the end. Vuel charged through the mass of men, cutting his way through Dalton's soldiers with relative ease. "Leave the boy alone Dalton, its me you want!" He shouted.
Dalton turned, blocking a lightning bolt from Ertai with a simple spell shield. "Actually, I've already got who I want. Now I'm just following orders."
"Lavos'." He said nonchalantly.
"Zeal killed Greven, and Schala!" Ertai cried out, breathing heavily. "It was Lavos!"
"Lavos is powerful enough to make someone kill their own daughter?!"
"You better believe it, you old coot! I'm powerless to resist!" Dalton laughed. Vuel noticed he now had a patch over his right eye. Maybe he had resisted for a little while. Surveying the rest of the scene quickly, Vuel realized Dalton's soldiers were winning. "Ertai, you can teleport. You have to get out of here!"
"No! I have to stay and kill this bastard!" Ertai's hand took on a bright glow once more.
"I'll do my best son, but you have to survive!" Vuel leveled his sword at Dalton.
"What do you think you can possibly do to me?" He asked scornfully.
"I intend to find out. Go Ertai! You have to escape! Tell all of Zeal what has happened here!"
Ertai looked around with a sense of dread, realizing he would not be able to beat Dalton, not yet. Just before the familiar white glow surrounded him, he saw Vuel charge head on at Dalton, and then he was gone.
Hanna turned over in bed, seeing many sets of scared eyes staring at her. "Dad still isn't back, and the battle sounds are getting closer." One of the children piped up.
"Where's Vhati?" She asked sleepily.
"We haven't seen him in a long time." Suddenly, they all heard a man scream at the door. Hanna jumped out of bed and ran into the main area of the cave. One of Vuel's gaurds lay on the floor, blood flowing freely from his chest. Through the smoke drifting through the cave opening, she saw Dalton and several soldiers march inside.
"What do you want?" She asked scornfully.
"I have been ordered to put down any form of resistance in the Earthbound village. Your family has done more than it's share of resistance lately."
"You've just been looking for an excuse to slaughter us all!" Hanna yelled, drawing a dagger.
"How true." Dalton said without emotion. At a slight gesture from him, one of the soldiers threw Vuel's mutilated body to the floor.
Hanna screamed. "You bastard! Someone has to kill you!!" She threw herself at him.
Dalton easily sidestepped the blow. "I don't think so." He dodged another clumsy slash of the dagger. "Your husband failed, your son failed... even Schala failed!" He dodged another flash of the dagger, unsheathing his sword. "If they couldn't succeed," she screamed as Dalton drove the sword deep into her chest, "you are less than nothing!" As the blood spurted from the gaping wound, Hanna slid to the floor. Dalton looked up, seeing the Vecar children cowering in a corner. "Don't worry kids, this won't take long."
Even though they were all terrified, even the smallest didn't give him the satisfaction of running away in fear. Dalton advanced steadily, but as he drew closer, his sword began to waver. 'They're so little...' He thought, involuntarily. His hand began to shake outright, and he threw the sword away. But then, the shaking hand began to stretch out, and took on a bright glow. "No..." He whispered. His other hand grabbed his right, trying to somehow force it in another direction. But the glow brightened until he knew it was too late. An ever expanding wall of fire filled the room, fortunately making enough noise to mute the childrens' screams.
"I am such an idiot. I am such an unbelievable idiot!" Ertai ran back down the tunnel toward the Vecar cave. "I should have come right back here! Please, just let Dalton have some trace of humanity..." But as he entered the cave, he realized he was too late. Hanna and Vuel's bloody forms lay sprawled on the floor, and the toasted remains of several small corpses were scattered across the room. Ertai could barely suppress his urge to throw up, but he had one last hope. "Vhati?!" He called, near desperate. After searching the rest of the cave, he did not find Vhati anywhere. Running back toward where the battle had started, he saw his brother's still form lying on the ground. "Vhati? Wake up!" He kneeled down, his hope fading as he saw the dagger protruding from Vhati's back. He turned him over, seeing the pallor of death plainly on Vhati's pained face. "No... Not everyone... It can't be... Who could be so brutal?..."
"Laaaaaaaaaaaaavvvvvvoooooooooooooooossssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WILL KILL YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!"
"You call throwing your life away courage? No, we won't be able to beat them yet." - Elmina
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