Chapter 23- The Avatar of Nightmare
The cruel fingers of the trees grasped at her bare arms and rent her clothing, stabbing her unseen in the darkness of the deep forest. Rain ran uncaring, lost in her desperation, trying to flee the horrid voice in her head and the terror of what lay behind her. The words of Amethyst tore at her mind, evoking all the images of blood and death from which she wished to do nothing but run and hide. Behind her, the shadows she had invoked unwittingly streamed about her like a flock of deadly crows, covering the world in darkness as she passed. They screamed, hungered, and called out to their Mistress, called the Avatar of Nightmare.
“Where are you going? Is there not beautiful blood just waiting to be spilled? Such beautiful music to my ears, the sounds of their screaming… Cannot you also hear it? Battle, dark waves of death and darkness as my children call out to me, worship me as the goddess that I am!” The deathly silky voice of the Avatar of Nightmare rang in her ears and defiled Rain’s soul. “Run unto the very ends of the world and still I shall remain. We are one, eternal.”
“Noooo…” Rain screamed as finally she broke through the line of trees, totally lost both mentally and physically. All the world around her seemed to be shattering; she seemed to be shattering. She could not shut out the voice, nor could she deny the power it held. It was as if she were falling, and there was no end to it. “I’m not listening! Get out of my head!”
The clearing into which Rain stumbled was what seemed the far end of an old and long forgotten cemetery. She could just make out an old wrought iron fence at the tree line to her left, and the shadowy shape of a few of the monuments. Above her, free from the bondage of the tree canopy, the stars burned in the sky. To her eyes they seemed foreign, unlike those she remembered. The burning stars wheeled and twisted, as if they were no longer bound by the laws of the universe. Before her stood the end of the world, the rising hill at the top of which loomed the Noir Cliffs. It was a two hundred foot drop from those cliffs to the icy depths of the swiftly moving river below. She could run no further, for this was the uttermost end.
“There is nowhere left to run, my belle. This is the end. Stand beside us and live eternal, a goddess and Queen, or die, soul sundered forever.” Amethyst stood at the tree line behind her, arms crossed, face devoid of any kind of expression. All the fury he had managed a few minutes ago had vanished during his chase through the wood. Now there was only the deathly calm in him, more dangerous than his anger could ever have been.
Rain backed up, each step taking her closer to the perilous cliffs. Tears ran streaming down her wintry cheeks. She shook her head, the long waves of her raven hair falling free of their bonds. She was shaking like a leaf. “No,” she whispered.
Step by silent step he drew nearer, never showing any hint of emotion or relenting. “For millennia I have waited, worked, and served. For one thing and one thing only have I lived since the great war which divided the Seelie from the Unseelie. Everything I have done, I have done for you.” His voice was soft, compelling. “My Lord Vermillion loved you so much, worshiped you, so I too came to love you. Why do you forsake those who would make you a goddess, who would lie at your feet and do your every command? Why must you break the hearts of those who have done nothing less than give you everything that they are? Indeed, you are a cruel mistress, Rain.”
His words were like poison seeping into every portion of her shattering being. She wanted to go to him, fall at his feet, and submit to what it was that he asked of her. For the look of depthless longing in his violet eyes she would fall into oblivion, drink of the void and become one with it. The Avatar of Nightmare in her soul verily sang, dark minor harmonies resounding through every fiber of her being. Yes, it sang in extacy, submit, and relent! Rise on wings of shadow and let me free! Drown the world in darkness eternal!
Step by step she had backed up and now there was no place left. As the Nightmare within her sang, her foot caught on a clod of grass, drawing her out of Amethyst’s eyes and back into her body. Rain could feel the wind tearing at her, trying to pull her down into the death of that long fall. She nearly lost her balance, but he reached out a hand to grab her own, pulling her close to him, forcing her to look back into those compelling eyes of his. Though he was no longer in his true Fae form, still he was no less commanding, no less the ancient and powerful Prince of the Dark Fae. Rain tried to speak, but the words would not come.
“Let us worship you, adore you, and love you for the dark beauty that you are. We would give you the world, if only you would let us, if only you would let free the power within you. It is so little a thing, so small a step. Become Nightmare, and know what it is to have the world at your feet.” Amethyst bent his head to take her in a passionate kiss.
Rain slapped him as hard as she could, cold fury rising in her then as it had not since the day she had found out Velorum had lied to her. It was not his words which had kindled the fire which was growing in her. Nor was it his closeness. No, it was the kiss. That which should have sealed the bargain, which should have made her wholly his, had served only to light the fire of righteous fury in her soul. That he would take from her by guile so precious a thing as a kiss, that sweet treasure which was so much a symbol of all she believed in evoked a burning rage in her. She was sick of people telling her who and what she was. She was tired of them telling her that all the hurt they caused her was because they loved her. True love, selfless and pure, did not demand. It did not hurt, and it did not enslave. But that was what his kiss made of her, a slave. He would have Rain vanish forever, enslaved and subjugated by the Avatar of Nightmare, soul reduced to nothing more than the pawn of a wild force of destruction. No, that kiss had damned him.
Rain’s tears stopped and her eyes began to flicker silver behind the jade. “You do not want to give me the world,” she hissed softly. So swiftly had her anger come on that the Amethyst Prince was little prepared for it. They stood face to face and she denounced him. “You want to use the power of Nightmare to further your own ends, not mine. You would make of me your pawn, nothing more than a wild thing caged for your ambitions, free to do nothing but what you wish. You say you love me, but you do not understand love. Love frees, you only want to enslave! Damn you, Arent! Damn you and all who stand with you. Let the Fae and those who serve them to all go to hell, for I want nothing to do with any of you!”
She moved to push him out of her way, thinking that that would be the end of it, that neither side would have her. She thought that she could just walk away and pretend that she could live a normal life, forgetting her fate, denying the power within her. However, the vice-like hand of the now enraged Dark Fae shot out and gripped her about the neck, lifting her off the ground and suspending her over the abyssal expanses below her. His face was twisted in a look of complete madness and fury. The icy fingers of the wind clutched her as she dangled suspended, her life literally in his hands.
Rain closed her eyes, knowing that this was it. She did not feel the sense of impending horror or fear that she would fall to her death that she had imagined she would when she had pondered the thought of death. Where she had expected to meet this final moment wishing only for one more minute or hour, here at the end she was ready for it. No more pain, she thought, no more heartbreak. I can just let go, and it will all go away. But a thought did come unbidden into her mind as she waited for Amethyst to drop her over the cliff. Velorum. His face came into her mind, his deep emerald eyes and fine features. The softness of his smile, and delicacy of is touch. In that moment she wised that she had had a chance to see him just one more time, to tell him that she forgave him, loved him. Despite all the pain, all the deception, she knew that she loved him and always had. Perhaps I’ll see him in my next life, she thought with bittersweet wistfulness. Perhaps next time we’ll get it right and we can life as happily as we promised one another.
Beyond all hope, beyond all possibility, she heard the voice which was the only she longed to hear. “If you let her fall, Amethyst, I promise that I shall send you to a hell more endless and horrifying than even you can imagine.” Velorum stood ten feet to their left, having just walked out of the shadows of the trees and upon their deadly scene. His long sword was drawn, his eyes that eerie silver. No emotion shone upon his face, but for the burning of those eyes.
Amethyst’s eyes flickered silver, a cruel smile twitching at the corners of his lips. “Oh will you then?” He feigned letting her go, a squeak of terror trying to rip its way out of her constricted throat. “Whatever hell you send me to, Vel, you’ll be sending her there first!” He leaned out and let her down a few more inches. Rain’s eyes were wild and full of fear.
Velorum did not move. In sooth, he did not actually believe that Amethyst would do it. He knew that the Prince of the Unseelie was mad, but he could not fathom that his madness was greater than his desire for power. The Lord of Death stood firm, hoping Rain would make a move and save herself. She was Dark Fae; she could do so if only she would remember it. His eyes sought hers and he hoped that all the things that he could not say would be understood. There was one thing Amethyst had forgotten… he was dealing with Death, not just Velorum.
“Then drop her,” Vel said emotionlessly. Incomprehensibly, that was exactly what the Amethyst Prince did. With a scream of soul rending terror, Rain fell into the void of the night beyond the edge of the cliffs.
Velorum’s eyes grew wide in horror, disbelief. Amethyst laughed like a madman. “In the end if I can’t have her, then neither shall you! I’ll find her again, Velorum, in her next lifetime just as I did in this one. I’ll turn her against you; use your pathetic love to destroy you both! Let the bitch die, I’ve all the time in the world! She’s the only one who can kill me, or so Byron’s pets said. Looks like she won’t be doing THAT any time soon!” Fire burned in his unholy eyes, a vengeance older than time. Velorum made a kind of choking sound and charged him, almost driving him over the edge of the cliff after Rain in the process.
The two Dark Fae tumbled to the ground together, locked in grapple holds of hate and centuries of pent up anger. The two had hated each other always, for even at the very beginning Amethyst had despised the soft spoken kindness and compassion in the Onyx Lord. Likewise, even before the sundering of the Seelie from the Unseelie Amethyst’s arrogant belief that he was so much more than all those about him had irritated Vel. However, it was the Prince’s reputation for torture and depravity which had truly made him hate Amethyst. Now, all those ages of the world later, they were at last going to have out the battle which was so very long in coming.
Velorum at first managed to get the upper hand, for his rage and grief were powerful indeed. His eyes had gone from silver to black, and he was in a fit of anguish so soul wrenching that a terrible wind sprang up and danced in a frenzy about the two wrestling Fae. His features were contorted, twisted in hate and sorrow. Amethyst, however, laughed madly, a crazed fire in his features. He howled in delight to see his enemy lain low.
“Didn’t you love the beauty of her screams, Vel?” Amethyst laughed. “I swear, as long as I live I shall never tire of destroying the people you love.” He landed a nice blow on Velorum, blood trickling from the Onyx Lord’s chin. “I mean, when I think back, Rain’s scream just now is second only to the one I got out of you when I made her kill your son. That was perfection, let me tell you!”
Velorum let out a roar of rage and grappled the Unseelie all the more in his unbridled fury. They tumbled upon the cold ground, locked together, fingers tearing clothing and long coats twisting in the fray. Velorum’s sword had been knocked out of his hand in that first charge and lay but a few feet from where he now had Amethyst pinned beneath his strong grip, the Unseelie Lord’s throat being crushed, log nails biting into his alabaster skin.
“I’m going to kill you with my bare hands, Amethyst!” He spat through clenched teeth. Velorum looked mad himself, the eternal void in the black of his eyes. “For everything that you have always done, and for depriving me of the one thing in this world that I love, I’m going to kill you with my bare hands.”
Amethyst continued to laugh, malice radiating off of him like heat. He did not seem in the least bit phased by the words of Velorum, and indeed seemed to find them even funnier than the fact that he had just tossed Rain off the side of the cliff. All the while that Vel strove to cut off his air and choke the life from him, the Amethyst Prince reached inch by careful inch for the cast away sword. His vision at last began to swim, and he was fighting to just remain conscious. It was in that moment that he felt his fingers close around something hard and cold; the pommel of Vel’s blade. With renewed vigor he took up the weapon and brought it crashing into the side of his foe’s head.
Velorum went tumbling off to the side, freeing Amethyst from his deadly grip. The Unseelie gasped deeply of the icy air, cherishing it as it filled his starved lungs. He noted the dark blood coloring the sharp pommel of the blade and a smile curved upon his bloodless lips. He had drawn first blood upon Velorum, and with any luck would finish off the fool presently. He rose and advanced upon where Vel was just starting to get to his feet, shaking off the skull splitting pain of Amethyst’s first attack. It was only by the shadow the Unseelie cast in the brightness of the starlight that he rolled to the left in time to avoid being cut in half by his own sword.
“Damn you, Velorum,” Amethyst roared in anger. It had never ceased to drive him to furry how the Dark Fae had the uncanny knack both of being at just the right place at just the right time, and how he always seemed to avoid his own death. “It’ll be you who’ll be joining the little bitch in hell, not me!” He took another swing at Vel, who deftly darted out of the way of the strike. Amethyst was more skilled with the axe than with a sword, and so not as graceful with the long sword as Vel would have been. Velorum used the fact that the Unseelie had carried the strike too far to vault into the air, his great black wings bursting from his back in glorious shadow behind him.
High into the night’s sky he rose, calling all the power manifest in him. Grief and rage swept through him, the sound of Rain’s last cry of terror echoing eternally in his mind. He was exhausted and soul sick, full of nothing but rage for the Unseelie below him. Black fire began to lick him, the shadows taking on physical form upon him in the shape of eldritch tattoos curling all about his body. The winds which had been tearing at the clearing began to scream and howl, heralding the arrival of He who was most feared in all of Existence. Velorum gave in to the hatred and soul splitting loss he felt and fell into darkness as Death took hold of him. A great roar tore from his throat as the Avatar consumed him, and Velorum was no more. The horrifying entity looked down upon the clearing below and smiled with all the warmth of endless nothing, seeing his prey below him. Death laughed darkly and dove with lightning speed, meaning to crush Amethyst under the force of the dive.
For a moment Amethyst stood in shocked awe, not having seen Velorum become the Avatar of Death in many an age. It was beyond words the power and majesty of Death, born aloft on those great black angelic wings, shadows swirling about him like a flock of screaming ravens. There was a moment when he almost gave way before that force, almost gave freely of his life that he might know the ecstasy that Death might bring. However, his will was strong, for he was of the eldest of the Fae, mighty and a Prince. He could not be so easily made Thrall, not even to Death. Amethyst cast off Velorum’s sword and called forth his own weapons, paired hand axes, and held them before him, awaiting the Avatar’s deadly strike.
Death dove down upon Amethyst with blinding speed. The Unseelie, however, was ready. The lavender haired Fae rolled with the force of the attack, knowing that Velorum had no weapon other than the force of that dive. Death aimed for his chest, but was met with the two hand axes instead. Rather than risk a serious would, he was content to carry the dive toward Amethyst’s shoulders, knocking him from his feet. Death used the momentum to sweep over where Vel’s sword lay and pick it up that he too might be armed. Sword in hand he leveled out and landed lightly on his feet, a smirk on his face. It had never been his intention to slay the Unseelie in that dive, though his ploy to make it look so had worked. All he had wanted was the sword, and now he had it.
“Tell me, spawn of the Unseelie, will your screams sound as sweet in the end? Velorum may have been merciful, but you shall get no quarter from me. Your death is mine, payment for all the souls I have accepted from you.” Death’s eyes narrowed dangerously, his cold smile never wavering.
Amethyst and Death glared at one another, ten yards or so separating them. Amethyst crouched in a position ready to spring, Death stood confidently ready to strike if his opponent made any move what-so-ever. For a long time they just stood there, eyes locked in a mental war as deadly as any of sword and shield. So intense was their attention upon one another, in fact, that they did not notice the unnatural storm which had swept in. Great rolling clouds boiled in the sky and sundered the stars from sight. Lightning licked the sky and earth, ear shattering thunder echoing across the cliffs and the low lands below. It was only when the tree to the right of Amethyst was hit and he broke eye contact that either noted the change in the air.
If possible it had grown colder, and the wind was whipped up in a frenzy of icy daggers, biting at the skin and rending clothing. Neither combatant moved, but rather gave thought to what this sudden storm could mean. It was Death who first heard the screaming laughter bourn upon the raging winds. His abyssal eyes narrowed and he tensed visibly. There were other voices upon that wind; he noted… voices which were familiar to Velorum.
He was unsure when they had entered the clearing, but Tearlin and Echorijn stood side by side near the old cemetery gate. Both had wild eyes of silver, Tear’s great white wings half lifted in alarm. Their gaze was trained upon the cliff edge, the place from which the horrible laughter originated. He too followed their line of sight, knowing without having to see what his eyes would behold. If not for the innate knowledge he held as Death of all forms of life, then Velorum would have known by the stricken looks upon the faces of his friends. Even Amethyst had frozen, noting as well the storm and laughter which were one. He turned his violet eyes to the cliff with the others, awaiting the impossible.
A darkness beyond night seemed to swallow the Cliffside and the area about it. Shadows danced and swirled in a kind of erotic play about the winds, singing to the night in their secret way. The Dark Fae could understand their song… and knew with dread She was come. Up out of the shadows rose a figure upon black wings tipped in blood crimson. Her hair was wild, red and black like so much carnage. Her skin was alabaster white, her lips black. And her eyes… her eyes held eternal damnation, fire, and abyss. Black they were and soulless. They were eyes that devoured light, consumed all in their sight. They were the eyes of the Avatar of Nightmare. She rose high into the sky, caressing the storm she had called and laughing at the ecstasy of freedom. She could feel he fear all about her, taste the blood of those just waiting to be slain. She was horror in physical form, and all in her path would be obliterated utterly. They would bow on their knees or die on their feet, either suited her, really. Nightmare reveled in the Darkness of which she was Mistress, knowing her vengeance was come at last.
In the end, it had been Amethyst who had indeed released her. Rain had looked into Velorum’s eyes ere she had fallen and seen the truth there, seen that he did indeed love her, that he had truly only ever done everything he could to protect her. But she had cast aside that love, that eternal bond. She had been the pawn of the Unseelie and their wretched schemes, and now she was lost. Rain had fallen into the darkness and let go. She gave into the rage that this must be her end, that she would never get the chance to truly learn who she had been, would become. Her rage and sorrow gave strength to Nightmare; her despair had given her birth. When Rain finally gave in, too tired to either fight it any longer or care, the great black and red wings of Nightmare had burst from her back in horrifying agony, bearing her aloft. Rain had fallen into her inner darkness, becoming Nightmare as it had been so long ago ordained.
Now Nightmare turned back to those upon the ground, knowing that she had a score to settle with each of them. How kind of them to gather in one place for me, she thought with a wicked smile. It will be so much easier to rend them apart this way. She let her great wings carry her in lazy circles above them for a moment, letting their fear and horror build. Somewhere in the back of her mind she could still hear Rain screaming, but she paid he voice no heed. The screaming only served to fuel her lust, add to her pleasure. Nightmare at last descended to the Cliffside once more, wings keeping her aloft ten feet or so above the ground.
Tear and Echo were transfixed where they stood. They had made their way as fast as they could, hoping to arrive in time to help Velorum. What they found was Death and Nightmare, never a good combination. Death was an inconstant ally at best, serving not Velorum’s desires, but rather his own. The best they could hope for was that he would attend to Amethyst, the long hatred between them superseding all else. That left them to face the Avatar of Nightmare, incarnation of damnation. They knew that deep inside her lay Rain, heart broken and afraid. They also knew that in order to stop Nightmare from consuming the world they might very well have to slay her vessel, slay Rain. It was to them that Nightmare turned first, a look of pure delight on her ivory face.
“What’s this? No happiness to see me? That’s hardly a fitting greeting for your friend.” She licked her black lips, drawing two long black daggers out of the shadows worshiping around her. Her black eyes locked on to those of Tear. “Tell me, my friend… do you really have it in you to kill me?”
“It does not have to be this way,” he said softly, long sword in one hand, the other protectively upon Echo’s forearm. He knew that she was not in any shape to be in a full blown fight with this entity. She could not even summon her wings, and her magic force was very weak. Her battle with Ash had nearly cost her her life. He, however, could still fight. His silver gaze held the black of Nightmare as she drew slowly closer.
“Oh yes it does!” She screamed in a fit of absolute rage. “I am as you have made me, for you and yours forsook me, lied and deceived me! Damn you all!” With that, she charged him, intending to spit the both of them upon the blades of her daggers. Her words had told him one thing he needed to know, though. She had spoken of hurts against Rain, not Nightmare. That meant that Rain was still close enough to the surface that they might yet reach her, reclaim her. The question was how.
Amethyst had taken the moment that Death was watching the exchange between Tear and Nightmare to launch his attack. With all of his speed he charged the black winged Lord of Death. He feigned high at first after closing the gap between them, but struck low. He was rewarded when Death did not parry in time and a deep well of crimson met the blade of the hand axe. Death roared in pain and struck out at the Unseelie with ferocious anger, trying to drive his blade deep into the Prince’s midsection. The two went on like this for some time, neither really getting the upper hand. Amethyst scored several very deep cuts on the bare chest of Death, while in turn taking some as well. A particularly well placed strike had left his left arm almost useless. Around and around they went, each seeking a moment of weakness in the other, a moment of broken concentration.
“Tell me, Vel… when you look back over the wreckage of your pathetic existence, is it my face you see laughing? Is it my voice you hear poisoning all about you, turning love into hate and life into death?” Amethyst’s voice was little above a menacing hiss, and his features were set, cold.
“I am Death, you fool. Though you make a hundred lives, still they all belong to me in the end. You may slay, but you cannot take what was never yours to begin with.” Death smiled darkly. “Velorum hates you, rages against all you have done. I, however, need not waste my time with you. I know the hour of your end, Unseelie. I am Death, the End of All. Even you cannot escape me. Thus, banter your egocentric nonsense if it pleases you. I shall own you in the end no matter who you may send to me first.” He laughed darkly.
Amethyst’s mocking smile faded slightly and a dark settled over him. Even he could not deny the words of the Avatar, and the fact sent chills down his spine. Was this his hour, his time? Could it really be that he had gone too far this time and miscalculated so badly? Vermillion was not there, which meant that even he knew that if something went amiss the results would be dire. Amethyst’s lips curled in a sneer of disgust. “Talk is cheap, as worthy as fool’s gold.” He charged Death, tiring of this game.
Death just grinned. “You’re the fool, Amethyst. But have it your way if you will.”
Beyond them, the battle between the Light Fae and Nightmare waged no less deadly and furious. Tear had managed to keep Echo from the worst of the battle, but now he was so tired that he had little choice but to accept her help as they faced off against their faster, stronger, and far more vengeful opponent. Nightmare vaulted up into the sky once more, as she had done more than once during the course of the battle, and dove down upon them. Echo brought up her lance just in time to block the strike which would have easily otherwise taken off her head. Nightmare laughed and licked the blood off the blade of her other dagger which had scored deeply of Tear’s shoulder.
“Tell me, sister” she drawled the word as she landed and advanced upon them once more. “How will you sleep at night now knowing that my death is on your hands? You could have saved me and didn’t! You’re helpless and inept! You should be happy to die, should thank me for delivering you from your hypocritical existence! With one hand you offer friendship and with the other give only lies.” She struck out with her foot viciously, knocking Echo to the ground and then whirling upon Tear.
“And you… Lord of Life, let’s not forget you. You have pronounced death to so many, letting Him do your dirty work. Champion of Holy causes indeed! You have destroyed more than I ever could!” She tilted her head to one side, smiling sweetly. “Those three innocent children you killed send their greeting, by the way I can still hear them screaming.” She laughed as his face paled and he charged her. She easily blocked the attack and tripped him, sending him sprawling into the dirt several feet away.
“Ohm…looks like I hit a soar spot there, didn’t me?” She giggled. “I think that after I’ve taken care of little sister here I’ll keep you alive. Your torment is so delicious to me. I will let you live eternal, damned and wholly mine.” She smiled.
“Now, now… I’m surprised at you, Echo. I didn’t thing you had it in you.” She whirled around to face Echo who had been just about to drive her lance through Nightmare’s midsection. She grabbed the weapon and yanked it out of Echo’s hand with unnatural strength. Her fiery eyes narrowed as she smiled. “Time to die, little one.”
Echo stood facing Nightmare with complete calmness. She was exhausted beyond anything she had ever known, soul sick and full of grief. She had lost a great many friends on the field of battle this night, and was at the point where nothing even mattered anymore. She smiled a little sadly. “Alright,” she said. “If it will cost my life to get Rain back, that is a price I’m willing to pay.” She closed her eyes and waited for the strike to come.
Nightmare tilted her head on one side, perplexed. She had not expected this. It was the moment of confusion that the force of Rain within her needed. No matter how much Echo had hurt her, she did not wish to see the girl hurt. Echo had come, in the end, to save her. She had been right that Amethyst had been a deceiver, even though she should have told Rain the truth from the beginning. The Child of Darkness reached out and tried to regain control over the Avatar of Nightmare.
Echo opened her eyes when the blow she had been expecting did not come. It was then that she noticed the dark ruby hanging at Nightmare’s neck. That was it! That was how they had subverted Rain and given Nightmare the power to take over her! She reached out and ripped the choker from her neck, slamming it into the ground with shattering force. Shards of the ruby went flying everywhere and Nightmare began to scream, clutching at her head and launching herself back into the air once more.
Tear got to his feet and gave her a questioning look, favoring his left side where a dark line of crimson could be clearly seen. “Just watch,” Echo answered his look with one of quiet assurance. Their eyes followed the erratic path of Nightmare’s flight as she screamed and rent the night with lightning. It was a cry from Death, however, which drew their attention.
Amethyst had driven him back to the edge of the old and long forgotten cemetery fence. A look of savage triumph lit his face as he pulled his axe out of Death’s shoulder. Death dropped his sword and slumped to the ground. The Unseelie stood over him and smirked.
“Look’s like your luck has finally run out, Velorum. I’ve Awoken the Avatar of Nightmare and you’re about to die at MY hands. Poetic, don’t you think?” He picked up Vel’s sword and held it above him pointed down, ready to drive it home. Death looked up and the black faded from his eyes. Emerald met Amethyst.
“Not today,” he whispered in a ragged voice. With a movement so fast no mortal eye could have followed it; he wrenched one of the rusty fence posts out of the ground. Velorum stood up and with all his weight and force drove it into Amethyst’s stomach. So violent was his thrust that it carried them both back ten feet and into the great oak tree which had been struck by lightning. They stood face to face, locked in that moment. Amethyst’s face was colorless with shock as the iron in the post began to send him into convulsions. Blood trained down his lips and from his chin. His eyes rolled back into his head and he slumped down, held up only by the post which pinned him to the tree. Though the iron would not destroy his immortal Fae soul, it would poison his physical form if left there like that. In the end, Amethyst would die.
Velorum could not seem to move. His breath came in ragged gasps and his muscles screamed. “That’s for Xaron,” he said breathlessly. “That’s for what you did to my son.”
He felt a soft hand on his shoulder. “Let him go, Vel. It’s over, but Rain still needs us.” Tear met his friend’s anguished gaze and reached out to pry Vel’s fingers from the post. “Let him go”
“Uh… guys,” Echo said with worry, “She’s coming back this way.”
They all three turned to where Nightmare had landed once more dangerously near to the cliff’s edge. The shadows about her were screaming chaotically and the storm was taking on a fevered pitch. The great black and red wings of Nightmare exploded in a furry of shadows and she staggered erratically. Without a second thought Velorum sprang into action, knowing he had to go to her side.
“Rain!” He screamed into the wind. His eyes were wild, but they were his eyes. Gone was the terrible form of Death, who had realized that this was not his battle to fight. There was anguish on his face, longing. His soul was laid bare to her in that gaze.
She turned when she heard her name. Was that her name? NO! Destroy them!
Her eyes were still black, but her hair was fading back to its normal blue and black. Color was beginning to return to her cheeks, but still there was the madness of the shadows which swirled about her. “Velorum?” She questioned as if she was unsure of her own voice.
His face lit up as she recognized him. “Yes, yes it is me, I’m here!” He made to move a few steps closer.
“Take another step and I’ll toss this vessel off the cliff again,” came the deadly voice of Nightmare. “I’ll kill her before I let you have her back!” Rain clutched at her head and staggered again, one more step closer to the edge.
“No, don’t! I’ll stay!” He stood his ground and gazed at the form of his beloved. It was rending his heart to see her so at war with the force which was trying so hard to claim her. “Rain,” he said again. “Rain, look at me.”
She shook her head no, but did as he said black meeting emerald. There was such pain on that face, a plea for release.
“Do you remember Paris? During the Dark Ages when we used to go to that spot by the river? The place no one else ever went? And we used to just lie there dreaming about what out future would be like.” He smiled softly at the memory, for it was one of the sweetest he could remember. “I asked you to be my immortal mate there.” His eyes became glassy as they filled with tears.
A stricken look crossed her face as of some great pain, but slowly the black began to fade into the jade he knew and loved so well. “I told you I would wed no less than the one who could learn my name,” she whispered.
“Kyriel,” he whispered in return. “Forgive me.” A single tear traced its way down is cheek.
“I do,” she said reaching out to take his offered hand.
“Vel, behind you!” Tear yelled.
The cry came too late, and Amethyst drove the post through Velorum’s shoulder and out the other side. Velorum howled in pain and spun around. The longer length of the post struck Amethyst, tripping him up and into Rain. She let out a scream as his momentum carried them both over the edge of the cliff.
“Noooooo…” Velorum cried falling to his knees. The iron was like fire in his blood. However, he realized that the iron content in the post has not been enough to kill the Unseelie Prince, and it would not kill him. Still, it burned and paralyzed him with the pain of it tearing through his body.
Echo had been faster than any of them on her feet. Once she heard Tear’s cry she had divined what was about to happen. She got the cliff side in time to reach out a hand and grab Rain by the hand as she fell. She looked down at her sister, her opposite; she knew that her life lay in the balance. Rain looked so spent, as if all the events of the last weeks were finally consuming her. There seemed nothing left in Rain to fight.
“Rain,” she said softly, “Please, give me your other hand. I can’t hold on like this for long.”
“I can’t,” the raven haired girl said with a broken sob. “I just can’t.”
“Yes you can,” Echo replied. All her love and faith in the other girl shone in her face. “I won’t let you go. Not ever. I’ll always be here to catch you.”
Rain looked up and met her gaze. “You promise?” There was such an innocent plea in the two barely audible words.
“I promise,” Echo replied. “Now give me your hand.” Rain did, and with a little help from Tear she pulled Rain to safety. Rain crawled the few feet to where Vel sat with his head in his hands. He had been so wrapped up in his anguish he had not realized that she had not indeed fallen to her death. She placed a delicate hand under his chin, forcing him to look up at her.
His face lit up in wonder. “Rain?” Once more a tear fell.
She smiled softly. “Yes.” She leaned, forward and kissed him passionately; heedless of the pain they were both in. Tear took Echo in a hug and the four just existed in that moment for a long time, silent and together at long last. A moan escaped Vel after a while and he slumped forward.
“We need to do something about that pole in his shoulder,” Tear moved to Vel’s side and inspected the wound as Velorum struggled to stay conscious. Rain looked worried, biting her lower lip. Tear met Echo’s eyes with resignation. “There’s nothing for it but to push it the rest of the way trough.”
”Are you sure,” Echo asked with concern.
“Just do it,” Velorum rasped. “And do it quickly please.”
Tear put his hands at the back of the pole, and with all of his strength pushed it the rest of the way through Vel’s shoulder. The Dark Fae howled with the pain of it but instantly felt the fire in his blood come to an end once it was out. He swooned a bit, but recovered quickly. He gave Tear an exhausted, but relived smile.
“Can we go home now,” Echo asked cheerfully.
Tear smiled softly. “Yes, beloved. Yes we can.” He reached out a hand to help Vel to his feet.
“Are you going to be alright,” Rain asked letting him lean on her for support.
“In time,” he answered. He could not help but let his eyes linger at the cliff face. I saw him fall, he thought, yet Death remains strangely silent. I can only hope that an end has been truly made of his evil. With that thought lingering in his mind the Four made their way back through the forest and to where the Watchers would be waiting for them.