THE DAUGHTER OF DORAN

9

THE WHITE PILLAR

 

SPRING

Thessiaday, 27th of Greengrow, 3830 AR

Duchy of Calyne

(03/07/2017)

            “What the fuck is going on up there?” asked Veyd.
            “You don’t know?” asked one of the girls.
            “No,” she replied. “Whatever the hell that is, it’s new.” The ground shook again as if two giants were having a fist fight above them and one of them fell down. Dust even fell down in the cave.
            “Let’s keep our eyes peeled,” Bastian said. “And keep quiet.”
            “It probably already knows we’re here. It can feel our vibrations on the ground.”
            “Really?” he asked.
`           “Yes,” whispered a soft woman’s voice. “You are a very well informed girl.” It was a voice like silk, barely audible, echoing off the walls and the laugh that soon followed was a gentle, kind one. “I suppose fooling you into coming closer will not work.”
            “Great, the monster can talk. Yippee.” Veyd checked her pistol as she walked, her almost black hair hanging down in locks over her eyes from her sides and then looked upward.
            Nothing on the ceiling but oh yes it could have been there, quiet as a ghost.
            John Bastian moved along behind her the shotgun in both hands looking carefully.
            “What is it?” asked one of the girls.
            “A gigantic spider,” Veyd told her. “Don’t panic and don’t run. Don’t move behind us either. Did you see those odd littles holes?” She gestured to the various medium heighted holes on either side of the tunnels
            “Oh gods, it can be behind us!” whimpered one of the girls.
            “Probably, yes. Above us, behind us, anywhere and all places.”
            “You don’t seem worried,” said the girl, her eyes wide with fear.
            “It isn’t bulletproof.”
            “I’m a lady,” said the voice in the distance. “My name is Sally.”
            “Sally the Spider,” said Veyd. “How delightful.” She turned to Bastian and mouthed the words, “I’ll distract it.” She made a “shoot it” gesture with her fingers.
            “What are you doing?” hissed the voice, far less human sounding, guttural and mean. “Your lips were smacking, what was that? Were you whispering?”
            “Sure was,” said Veyd as she walked forward, the girls moving a bit behind her but stopping. She flipped out the lighter she took from the coat room, flicked it, saw that it worked, then flipped it back. “Tell me something, Sally. Has your father spoken of me?”
            “Yes.”
            Veyd stopped and blinked. “Okay, I didn’t expect that.”
            “Oh yes. Ardark found you very interesting and, by the way, the Great Mother is actually female.” She sounded annoyed, maybe even offended.
            “Technically, so I am,” said Veyd who know that very much as she walked. She moved to the edge of a tunnel and listened. Looking was too dangerous. Spiders came all sorts of shapes and sizes but they were usually quite fast. “Why are you here?”
            “Someone always come down here at night,” she told Veyd. “Several guards who are locked in when night reaches its end and try to escape through the caves through the well. I feast every night and have for years. For a while private guards with their spinning blades come to but they stopped.”
            “The Goblin got past you.”
            “You wish to destroy this place.”
            “He wants the girl which is what will destroy this place.” Bastian was looking at her strangely from the back, trying to remember, and instinctively going against character and letting her lead. Somewhere, deep, or maybe not so deep, inside, he knew she was not just some thirteen year old girl.
            “He can’t get the girl,” she said again in the soft woman’s voice. “I can’t even get the girl.”
            “Well, women are complicated. Being one myself, I’ve learned no reason why. Honestly, I think most women are just bitches.”
            She looked out of the tunnel with her gun pointed. There was nothing there but laughter echoing from the endless path.
            Veyd sighed and said, “Well—

*          *          *

            —shit,” said Danica.
            She looked up through the rain and saw that it was going in every direction, up, down, left and righty, reality itself going haywire, and through it all, beyond, she stared upward into the darkness where a figure was flying, arms outstretched, the water spinning around her like some kind of cloud.
            Danica had knocked Wyienne across the sky half a hundred times, covered in as much sweat then as water, but she kept bouncing back. Her body kept breaking then reforming like the Goblin’s but quicker.
            The most powerful monster in the Gray Queen’s army.
            “You can’t defeat me, Lady Pare,” called out Wyienne from above and then she landed on the ground with a boom that sent waves of rain water everywhere.
            Danica looked up to see that she was wearing some kind of weird, insane magician’s robes. It was skin tight, leaving no room for imagination, shamelessly low cut revealing the tops of her stolen breasts, sleeveless, with a legless skirt, all black with a gold belt and gold trimming around the ends. Her hair above her head had a tiara with gold in it gems that matched her stolen eyes, the social symbol of professional female magicians everywhere, with a long, elegant braid, the physical symbol of professional female magicians everywhere. Her fingers were covered in gem covered rings that were magical and could probably do things.
            “You are so goddamn insane,” said Danica.
            She walked over on hard booted feet that reached to her knees, her long, muscular yet beautiful legs hidden behind nylon, and formed beautifully. Each step made a splash and the water moved about her as she approached.
            “Your queen will be delighted to see—”
            Danica sliced her across the stomach with a glowing flame blade with a cry, making Wyienne scream as she stumbled back. Caught off guard, Danica slashed at her violently as she stumbled. Wyienne made a blade of ice and suddenly blocked one, the sounds closing, and then blocked each hit as it came with surprising competent.
            Perhaps she stole someone’s skills, Danica’s mind seemed to suggest without words, but that didn’t strike her as true because Wyienne never had before. Rumors of her trying to learn new spells, new languages, new everything, were legitimate and she would never had tried to learn anything if she could she could just drain it like she did Roselyn Carro’s chest.
            No, it struck Danica as her insanity, or connection with the curse, that provided her with a kind of powerful prodigy ability as though the curse was pushing talent and skill into Wyienne in order to help defend itself against the invaders.
            They fought in the rain like two swordsman in a movie duel over some loved one Danica’s hits slicing open and healing before the next when she did break through. The fabric of Wyienne’s dress burst into smoke clouds as it was cut, part of the darkness and the curse alike, and she sliced and wailed and went crazy.
            Danica’s arms were soon hurting, her back and legs and everything aching, seconds, minutes, or hours passed, she couldn’t tell, and Wyienne was still standing, still not tired, staring at her without something like curiosity mixed with pity.
            Danica sliced her across the throat in a sudden brutal slash, blood splattering through the air, spinning around with her flame sword and when she was facing back for another stab see the wounds were already closing. Wyienne’s eyes were wide with shock but she was calm, either from insanity or confidence in the curse Danica could not stay.
            But she was also vulnerable.
            Wyienne screamed suddenly as the ground of earth rose up with her ankles, grabbed her feet, and held her there. Lightning struck at Danica, the curse turning against her directly, but she blocked it with her sword and the lightning wrapped around it armlessly.
            Wyienne screamed as she was pulled backward onto the courtyard and then the ground rose up and grabbed her hands.
            Danica turned and blocked several lightning bolts as they came down, purple, the color of royalty: the color of the Gray Queen.
            In the sky she saw something form from the darkness using the swirling clouds and rain above. The purple lightning bolts made it flash and form and its image was as recognizable as her own.
            “Cydra!” screamed Danica as she slammed Wyienne down onto the courtyard with a thud. “We’re coming for you!”
            The voice that boomed from the sky was like that of a giant monstrous insect, a voice formed through the wind and the lightning to sound like words the way it had made the clouds a face. “I will destroy your land, Danica Pare!” it shrieked in its high pitched, ear piercing voice. “I will blow the capital into the sky!”
            “Calyne cannot be destroyed now!” cried Danica. Wyienne suddenly screamed as she covered in the courtyard and then was silenced as she was pulled down under. “You are losing your power here!”
            “You are not near the heart—” her face shifted to one of shock “—there is another!” The white eyes of the face in the sky narrowed and the ground shook violently, breaking cracks everywhere that made one building not far crumble but Wyienne was not released. “Where is he!” the voice shrieked. “Where is Veyd?” Her face distorted in hate and rage when Danica did not answer.
            Danica raised up her flame sword and the lightning shot out from Cydra’s scream shot through the sky across the courtyard at Danica but was absorbed into that blade. Danica had turned around, faced the lightning as it shot toward her back, and was pushed back several feet, boots scraping across the ground, easily still holding onto her earth magic to keep Wyienne down.
            “I WILL KILL YOU AND EVERYONE YOU LOVE!” She shot her again, from above pushing her down into the ground, from below lifting her into the air, three more times, four more times, all with no avail.
            She was an elementalist and the element of electricity was easy enough to control.
            “Try again, Cydra!” Danica told her, her curly hair hanging down on either side of her head almost straight it was so soaked.
            “I WILL!” cried Cydra’s face in the sky and then a mad storm of electricity shot down from her mouth and her eyes.
            Danica watched it form, made a second blade in her left, and raised one up to the sky, the other toward the wall that surrounded the courtyard, and braced herself for impact from two different bolts of lightning.
            As the hits came down she heard something in her mind. It screamed at her, made her nose bleed, but she didn’t stop.
            The voice sounded like it said—

*          *          *

            —stop him, the voice had said.
            It sounded to John Bastian like it belonged to a woman who would drown her own children because she got bored of them. It was monstrous, horrible, and even though it sounded human in his mind he felt certain it was not.
            He had the strangest sense that he heard that voice before, knew it intimately even, just as he had that strange sense that the little girl walking beside him like an equal was not just some little girl.
            He had also recognized that thing, that Man, who had fought with a chainsaw, even though he never met him before, his wife, or Woman or whatever she was, and others. There were others there too.
            Bastian moved the shotgun on his shoulder, lowered its upside down barrel by lifting up with his right hand, and pulled the trigger.
            Its scream was more ear piercing than the gunshot.
            He had moved to the back surreptitiously putting Jessica in the front and the girls in between and, as Jessica had predicted, the spider had come slipping in quietly from behind.
            Bastian turned around, saw the spider with his own eyes, and was more horrified by the sight than anything his mind could recall but still fired his next shot without hesitation.
            It was a huge, hairy, black thing filling up the entire tunnel behind them. The girls were screaming behind him and the spider was screaming too, its tiny front legs clawing at the sounds on its face. He fired all the rounds off in the gun into that face but it was still alive.
            “Ardark…” he whispered. “Ardark is real…”
            “My face!” screamed the spider in a guttural nasty, black blood pouring out of its face almost like a waterfall. “My beautiful face!”
            “It’s vain,” he said out loud. “It’s actually vain.” He was putting in the shells without thought, hands moving on instinct.
            The spider raised its face and its remaining black eyes stared into his suddenly very cold and very calm. “You are going to very so—” its face, the two long fangs with their hairy whatever connecting them indicated shock “—no, wait, no—”
            The flaming cocktail hit the creature on the back and it was suddenly completely ablaze jumping up and down and going crazy. It may have had one hell of a hard shell but it wasn’t immune to fire.
            Bastian raised the gun, fired once in his face, then jerked aside as it charged forward.
            It let out an ear piercing shriek that made everyone clutch their ears, knocking the girls aside, and turned down the tunnel taking its light with it that was soon fading. Jessica had been standing behind it holding another bottle with a rag and her lighter in her right hand.
            “Where is it going?” asked one of the girls in a gasp voice.
            “My best guess,” Jessica said with a shrug, “Would be upstairs.”

*          *          *

            A flaming thing crawled out of the well.
            “Oh fuck me!” cried Danica at the sight of it.
            Cydra shot another burst of electricity at her, evidently her only tool, and she blocked it, absorbed it and then sent it across the courtyard into the flaming thing.
            It hit the giant spider in the side and the flaming thing shrieked and danced and then went stumbling away in an attempt to put herself out.
            Cydra screamed at it. “Get back in there!” her voice shrieked.
            The spider didn’t listen and rushed off away still on fire, several of its legs, where the electricity hit the strongest, were not working. It disappeared around an old tower and vanished.

*          *          *

            “Fun,” said Veyd.
            “What is going on up there?” asked one of the girls.
            “Gods only know,” she replied. “Time to move forward.” She reattached her wine bottle to her side, put away her lighter, and took out her pistol. She rushed off down the tunnel and Bastian followed afterward.
            Not long down the tunnel they saw the well and the hole downward where the water was. It was actually getting to overflowing and as they approached it was reaching up to the base of their feet which Veyd suspected was not normal.
            “She went out alright,” said Veyd looking up at the scorch marks and blood along the sides of the well. She moved along the wall, back against it, and continued forward. There was more road at one time but it fell apart leaving only a couple feet of space a person could walk across.
            The damn thing still actually functioned as a well. The bucket would go down so far that no one could see that there two pathways somewhere in the middle and the little path just under a lip.
            The others followed after easily enough, one wrong step only threw them in water so none of the girls were scare, but they took a while and Veyd impatiently for them to finish.
            “What happens now?” asked one of the girls.
            Veyd looked back at them and realized she had not given them a second look. Three beautiful women and they meant nothing to her. She really wasn’t a lesbian, it seemed.
            It was a redhead who spoke. She was still black, her hair was straightened and red to match her dress, a style that struck Veyd as a bit of a commoner style. In Calyne, noble class people tended not to ever straighten their hair as it was too “foreign” which was considered unsophisticated and unpatriotic to attempt to look like the courtiers who mostly had straight hair. “We have to get to the heart of this. Somehow it involves this guy,” she said with a point at John Bastian.
            “Why?” asked Bastian.
            “I have no idea,” she told him. “I just got a sense of it and I gather since you’re Danene’s true love you have something to do with it.”
            “Where is Danene?”
            “At the end of this with the Goblin watching over her. You know him as Donnell Fladd.”
            John Bastian’s face hardened. “Fladd is here, is he?”
            “Oh he’s here and he wants the girl but you know that part, don’t you?” Veyd turned back to him. “You can’t kill him because he can’t die. Not until the curse dies.”
            “What cure are you talking about?” he asked.
            “You’ll see,” she replied as she walked.
            They continued down the path for some time, lightning striking relentlessly from above, and found the opening into the natural cave system that led to the secret exit, the door lying on the ground, the inner side an actual door, the outer side disguised to look like it was part of the cave wall.
            There was an unnatural light down there the color of white.
            Veyd stopped walking and let John Bastian move ahead of her. She wasn’t sure why but she did. Her instincts told her that her part as the main player in Calyne was coming to an end.


*          *          *

            Cydra stopped attacking. “No!” her voice cried. “No, I won’t allow this!”
            Danica felt the power in the air and knew what was coming.
            “You stop this or I will blow Calynyre!” shrieked Cydra, her white cloud eyes starting to glow purple.  “I will blow it to hell itself with everyone you love within it!”
            “That will not kill me and I will make your dying last an eternity!”
            “I cannot die!” Cydra replied.
            “Then I will make death your greatest wish!” screamed Danica and she fired her own lightning bolt, natural blue, through the sky and Cydra snarled as it went through party dissolving her face.
            Wyienne got a hand out and Danica slammed her foot down on the courtyard and slam-squeezed the ground down hard enough to kill a creature with the strength of kill ten men. Blood shot out of the cracks in an flood.
            “Say goodbye to your greatest city!” cried Cydra.

*          *          *

            John Bastian stepped down into the cavernous room.
            Donnell Fladd turned his head and looked at him. He was kneeling before Danese Lanor Roster, speaking to her through the white sphere that covered her. There was liquid inside, her curly hair flaying around, her eyes shut, wearing a white dress.
            The light came from that white sphere illuminating bodies upon bodies of men some of which he knew. They were Roster private guards, with flip blades and wolf emblems, sent in to save a woman who was the mixed child of the greatest dynasty and bloodline of Calyne alike.
            There were other bodies too, dozens or more, all in various stages of decomposition, the Roster private guards the most decomposed. Even though the spider could not have been there that morning it had been there for decades.
            “I see why she calls you a Goblin,” was all Bastian could think to say. He raised his gun and shot him the green skinned man in the chest. He stumbled a bit but the wounds healed.
            He said nothing for a moment, staring at him in a look of misery and hate.
 “I can’t let you have her,” was what he finally came out with. “Not you either, Alan,” he added with a point at Jessica as she was moving around her.
            “You can’t have her,” said Jessica. “She was never meant for you. She was meant for him and your attempt to alter fate is what made you the Goblin and this place a Pillar of Doran.”
            “Can you get her out?” asked Bastian.
            “I don’t think so,” she replied. “I only think he can break it.”
            “I won’t give her to you,” the Goblin said to Bastian with sudden guttural hate. “I won’t give her to any man.”
            “You’re not even a man anymore.” Bastian tossed the shotgun and grabbed a flip blade from one of the dead men. The Goblin grabbed another but he didn’t seem amused. He seemed almost pitiable.
            “She was supposed to be mine,” he said. “She is a lady, a lord’s daughter, and you are nothing but the son of a knight. My father was in moments of a proper arrangement before you came along. Who cares if she loves you? She was meant for me!”
            “She was meant for love.” Bastian almost felt sorry for him. Donnell Fladd had known her all her life but Danene never loved him but would have done her duty if she had not fallen in love.
            It sounded like a good story but Bastian knew what kind of monster he was and he knew the names of several of the people he killed, many of them women and children.
            Not to mention Danene’s first husband who had swept in not unlike the way he almost certainly imagined Bastian had.
            “I do love her,” said the Goblin.
            “Obsession is not love,” said Bastian. “You don’t even know the meaning of—”
            They flipped their blades out in unison, two black blades rolled out from handles into long full blades in the hands of two men who knew how to use them. One saw the other move and moved quickly to react but Bastian wasn’t sure if it was he or the Goblin who moved first.
            Bastian knew he could regenerate any damage but he also knew the Goblin couldn’t fight without ahead.
            “I do know the meaning of love,” said the Goblin. He didn’t act instantly as he was conflicted. He moved in front of the girl equal distance from his rival and his enemy, the girl Jessica. “I haven’t forgotten about you, Veyd.”
            “You would have really hurt my girlish young feelings if you had.”
            “You are not the Daughter of Doran,” stated the Goblin.
            “I don’t need to be,” was her reply.
            The Goblin started, for an instant, toward Jessica. Bastian did not know why Jessica was important but he knew she was and he rushed forward.
            The Goblin hissed, turned to block the blade, and tried to get free. He was scared of Jessica, that much was certain, but the why was elusive. The girl was smart but was she anything more than just a girl? He was pretty sure she was.
            “Free Danene!” he cried.
            “No!” cried the Goblin as Jessica rushed toward the white ball. “She’s mine, you bitch!” He tried to break loose again and Bastian sliced him across the arm, then the thigh, forcing him to stumble and then block as opposed to run. “You don’t know what you’re doing!”
            “I know exactly what I’m doing!” cried Jessica.

*          *          *

            Veyd had no idea what she was doing.
            All she knew was that a great deal of power was erupting in the east and she knew exactly what that was as well. Cydra was going to leave a mark on the country before it left her power forever, do what she did make the Long Gap but in some great populated area like Calynyre City or something.
            Veyd felt the magic of the Talia flow into her body and, with no other particularly discernable plan, leapt at the white ball that beat and thumped like a literal heart.
            As she lifted off into the air going head first her mind thought, without command, the question, Does anyone else think this is too damn literal?

*          *          *

            Lord John Roster, the elderly matriarch, caned his way to the balcony of his palace in Calynyne and looked out to the east. He looked out to the Gray Queen’s domain and to the purple light that suddenly filled the night sky.
            His grandnephew and his family were staying with him and the two had been speaking of the situation as they talked, the one that involved the yellow eyed priest, when the sounds of fear and purple light drew them to the balcony.
            A bit overweight, and still quite muscular despite his permanently wounded leg, John Roster wore the blue robes of his house in the older warrior’s style, sleeveless to reveal his muscular arms, but loose around his shoulders, parted at the center to show some of his chest, and hanging down around his ankles. His highly curly hair turned white with time, one eye blind from a battle he survived, and scars could be seen along his arms, chest, and face but he looked otherwise a much younger man.
            He knew what it coming: it was doom and it had something to do with that girl who had saved his great grandniece.
            “We need to evacuate the city now!” cried his steward suddenly.
            “There’s no time. This magic fly miles upward, miles down, and miles around.” He had seen the gap being made and he knew exactly how much time they had. “We have maybe a minute and we’ll never make it in time. They’re be a hole here within minutes.”
            His grandnephew Alfred came up beside him, Emma holding onto his left arm tiredly in her nightgown. She had been deeply traumatized by her adventure and while in the company of the girl Alice Amberwood, who she apparently worshipped, she was calm but away from her she was deeply nervous and clung to her father for protection.
            She had nightmares about the green man they called the Goblin.
            Roster supposed none of that mattered now.
            He felt disgusted with the situation. They had saved the youngest member of his family only to lose her and almost everyone else in an instant.
            John Roster could handle death, he was an old man, but the idea of losing the children sickened him to his core. He leaned on the rail with both hands and swore he would wait for Cydra in the Underworld, may it take centuries or millennium, and he would personally have his revenge on her and so vicious would it be that the Dragon of Hell Himself would pity her when he was done.
            Alfred picked up his daughter, held her tightly, and said, “Close your eyes.”
            John Roster did not do that himself even though his steward and his wife in her blue gown did. He stared into the purple light with his one good eye and waited for the end to come.
            I’ll be waiting for you, Cydra, he told himself.

*          *          *

            Veyd was suddenly in something like water.
            It was strange because she could breathe in it.
            It was far bigger than it appeared and she had to swim through it toward the sleeping woman in the center. She could hear banging outside and looked over to see a giant Goblin, banging on the sphere and leaving blood parks where he touched.
            She swam toward the girl, Talia’s light suddenly pushing her forward like a jetpack with golden sunlight following up behind her, and then was upon her.
            I am so not gay, she said as she looked over the gorgeous young woman. She wrapped her arms around her, used Talia’s light, and felt am incredible burst of power.

*          *          *

            The whole world spun around suddenly and savagely.
            Danica hit the ground back first, eyes staring widely up at the spinning sky, the face of Cydra vanishing, appearing, and then again. The clouds it formed from were spinning like a whirlwind, stars beyond seeing and then unseen, and when it was done and shaped solidly again it looked stunned and horrified.
            For an instant, just a moment, as the clouds reformed she saw the Moon of Corvo move into sight, and his face, the Man on the Moon they called the face and generally the moon itself, taking up the entire surface facing her looking surprised with a huge O for a mouth and two wide blue eyes.
            Danica couldn’t move, she couldn’t breathe because the air was being sucked out from around her, but she could still hold down Wyienne who was trying to push her way out.

*          *          *

            John Foster felt something shake across the landscape.
            A wave of something stretched out from somewhere, hit the city from its back, and went on to the center of Doran. It hit the source of the purple light, the Black Obelisk, and the light flickered off then came on again.
            It was more intense than before.
            It was more desperate.
            “By the gods, she’s doing it! Something the girl is doing is working!”
            But it wasn’t enough. The curse of Calyne still held and if she wasn’t quick enough everyone was going to die.

*          *          *

            Veyd was on the ground, eyes staring up at the ceiling, stunned to immobility.
            “That was a hell of a spell,” she said and saw the Goblin above her with a flip blade covered in blood.
            “She’s mine, you bitch!” he screamed and then another blade went through his back. It ripped as he pulled away and he turned and fought Bastian. “She’s fucking mine!” he screamed.

*          *          *

            Bastian only saw Danene for a moment, lying in white with her dark curls hanging around her head, unconscious.
            The only thing he saw after that was a blade spinning like madness at her.
            The Goblin was going insane. “She’s mine!” he cried swinging at him with insane speed, reckless, vicious, but not incompetent. “She was never meant for you! Never meant for Roster! She was never meant for anyone but me!”
            Bastian let him come, conserving his energy.
            He pushed him back to the wall, made one swing, and Bastian sliced him across the throat. He did not heal that fast, that time, but he was healing much faster than a man. He could see the fleshy wires shooting across the space of the neck.
            “She’s mine!” he hacked out and his green eyes filled with green tinted tears. “You—stole—her!”
            He chopped off the Goblin’s arm sending him down to his knees. “I’m sorry, Donnell. We can’t help who we love and fate isn’t always kind.” He spun around, sliced his head off of his shoulders, and sent it flying across the room.
            He dropped the sword instantly, a nasty wound across his shoulder and his chest, and rushed over to his bride.
            He wrapped his arms around her and lifted her up. Her eyes opened and she smiled at him. “I knew you would come,” she whispered. “I knew you would.”
            “I told you I would,” he replied.
            “You,” he said to Jessica and she groaned on her back. “What I do?”
            “What do you think, genius?” she replied. “Kiss the girl.”
            Bastian lifted her up and kissed her.

*          *          *

            Something clicked into place.
            Everything moved, some things lifting into the air, others flying around them, most of the cave feeling like a spaceship that suddenly lost gravity.
            Veyd dreamed then of the old days, of the girl with teal eyes, lost in time.
            The girl they called then the Daughter of Doran.
            When she opened her eyes, still floating, she saw Bastian and Danene kissing in the air, and knew what was happening: the Goblin had tried to break fate, which was breaking the future in ways that couldn’t happen using unnatural magic.
            It was never a good thing to mess with the god of time, the Great Weaver, and it always had bad consequences.
            The Pillar of Doran of Calyne was built the day Donnell Fladd tried to remove John Bastian from the reality of existence, the only guaranteed way she would never have been able to love him, and she resisted. It allowing the curse Cydra created to take a foothold from that act and amplify it to include the entire dinner party, the entire castle, even the small town and village beyond.
            Time doesn’t break like glass, to be shattered out of existence, it breaks like a record and once cut repeating itself over and over again until it gets knocked back on its proper track. Only the Great Weaver or her children, who they sometimes call the Fates, could do otherwise and Donnell Fladd had to learn that the hard way.
            It didn’t matter anymore because it was over. Veyd floated peacefully up through the air with a smile and let the naturalization of magic take its course.

*          *          *

            Danica floated in the air, arms outstretched, using air only to steady itself. She was high in the sky, rain spinning around her, light stretching from her body looking out over the courtyard.
            The face was staring at her with hate but it was breaking apart. Cydra was fighting hard against it but she was losing.
            Her eyes were filled with very dark promises. “We—will—meet—again.”
            “That day will be the worst of your life,” said Danica.
            Cydra’s will broke and she screamed as her image broke to pieces and vanished into the air with all the clouds opening a beautiful, cloudless night sky.

*          *          *

            The purple light broke.
            It didn’t vanish, it broke, right out of the sky, exploding out like a lightbulb that was just shot out with a bullet. A wave of something crossed the land and John Foster knew what it was.
            Oh gods, he really did know what it was.
            When the curse broken in Keldor men and women of all ages, all classes, all levels of health and mental conditions, all spoke of this wave of comfort that went across them. They spoke of the calmness and the freeing vibration of something through the air.
            He felt that then, felt it warmly pass through him, and the leg that had been injured fighting one of Cydra’s minions half a century ago felt much better, better than it had ever felt.
            He shut his eye for a moment, looked up at the sky, and saw, for the strangest instant, the golden yellow light of the sun light the world as if, for a very brief moment, the sun had come out.
            They had spoken of that too and how it was warm and, while it didn’t light anything, it lit everything.
            The air was filled with scents and warmth, the sounds of the sea in his ears even though it was far away, the sounds of birds chirping happily and dogs howling in joy.
            It was wondrous and warm and beautiful.
            John Roster looked down and looked at the flowers his mother had been so fond of, the red and purple daffodils that was of her bloodline house, and in that moment of light, they were glowing bright and vibrant for the first time since he could remember.
            He had never seen them bloom, not in the land of Calyne, and not outside of a video. He had been very young when the land was cursed, his mother not yet twenty.
            When the light was gone and the night had returned the sky was a shade of blue no one had seen in over half a century John Roster felt very much at peace.
            He stared out at the horizon and nodded. He had no idea how he was handle the next part after his first command. “The curse is broken.”
            “It was beautiful,” said Emma.
            “It was,” he replied. He would die remembering it but he was old so that didn’t say much but Emma would die of old age remembering it too and that said a lot.
            John Roster looked at his family for a moment, then turned away, and dreaded was to follow. “Send an airship to Anne Fladd’s castle,” he told the steward. “Bring me back—Danene Roster.”
            “Your mother,” whispered his wife.
            “My mother,” he agreed and then swallowed. “My mother is almost certainly still nineteen.”

*          *          *

            “If I was a romantic I would really be moved by this.” Veyd said with a laugh then squeaked as John Bastian picked her up.
            “Come on,” he told her.
            “Okay,” Veyd replied. “Is the Goblin dead?”
            “No,” he said.
            Veyd leaned over and looked and saw that there was a blood trail from where his head was cut off. His head, hand and body were missing.
            “That’s just fucking great,” she said.
            “Did you have red hair?” asked one of the girls that had been following her.
            “No but that is a peculiar question,” Veyd replied and felt vaguely uneasy about that. It could not have possibly a coincidence. She gripped the flip blade she had grabbed, always wanting one of those, and clutched it to herself. She shut her eyes and fell asleep as she was carried out of the cave and back to the castle.

*          *          *

            Danica saw that there was a hole where Wyienne had been.
            The curse shot her out like a bullet probably. There was no trail so she didn’t crawl out so something of that sort, maybe teleportation even, had sent the monster away. Danica was deeply displeased she could not find a way to contain that monster.
            She fixed the hole easily, merging it back into the ground, and looked around the wet courtyard. The sky above was not even cloudy, a kind of light blue color lit by the stairs.
            She looked up at it, then looked down, then shrugged.
            And then a hand grabbed her by the arm and she was shocked to see Anne Fladd, still thirteen, staring at her. “What the fuck was that?” she shrieked.
            “Well—” Danica shrugged “—I guess the curse is over.” She looked over and saw two guards walking along the courtyard. She heard them almost yelling at each other.
            “Yes, there was a giant spider crawling over the wall and no I did not fucking shoot it!” one snarled at the other. “If that thing saw me it might have jumped at me and I don’t want to die by giant fucking spider—”
            “Is it gone?”
            The man looked at her, a tall, muscular black man in black plated armor with its helmet off. He looked her dress over, calculating her rank, then decided on humility. “Yes, my lady, it’s gone,” he said. “It fled into the woods.”
            Someone else appeared, a man with a woman in white clutching his arm, and three other girls. In his arms Jessica Veyd was sleeping.
            Danica approached them and grabbed Veyd’s arm from the man and pulled her down.
            “Ow!” Veyd cried as she slipped to her feet.
            “Wake up, you!” She shook Veyd awake. “Wake up, wake up, wake up—”

*          *          *

            —wake up, wake up —”
            “Fine!” Veyd shook off the grogginess. “What do you want, evil bitch?”
            “Did you honestly think you could have slipped in here all alone and pulled this off?”
            “I managed it the last time,” she replied groggily.
            “I just fought of Wyienne the Insane and Cydra in the sky.”
            “In the sky? Like the actual sky?”
            “She was in the fucking sky!” cried Danica. “She formed out of the clouds and shot me with lightning bolts and damn near destroyed Calynyne!”
            “What was that now?” asked the man.
            “It’s—” Danica looked him over and lost her train of thought for a second as she stared at him.
            “I know, he’s superhot.”
            “Thanks, I noticed.” Danica felt her face go red and the girl in white started to grin. “Damn it, Veyd!”
            “Look, Danica—” she blinked “—who the hell is that? There were no children at that party.”
            “That’s Anne Fladd. Wyienne drained Joselyn Carro of like everything! She’s a freaking crone lying on a table!”
            “I should probably go fix her,” Veyd said and started walking.
            “What happens now?” asked Danica.
            “Don’t know,” said Veyd. “This pillar is broken. Calyne is fixed and immune to Cydra’s unnatural effects. She still has conventional methods of controlling it, her army, missiles and weapons and such, so that’s Roster’s problem. For me, it’s onward to next pillar as soon as I recover.”
            She looked up into the sky and saw the Man on the Moon frowning down at her, a large white moon with a man’s face and two blue eyes. It really was a moon, she had landed on it as Alan Veyd, and the Man on the Moon never forgave her for setting off that nuke. He had that displeased look on his face.
            “Where the hell have you been?” She hadn’t seen the Man on the Moon for a long time, a wandering counterpart to Corvo the Walrus. Something he dreamed up like those magical animal races once up a time.
            “You’re going to fix her?” asked Anne as she walked beside her holding up her dress. “Are you going to make me old?” She looked terrified and shook her head. “I don’t want to be old! I’m just a girl! I won’t have the memories you think I will! I’ll lose my entire—”
            Veyd looked away from the moon and then at her eyes glowing yellow and naturalized her to her spirit, which in that case, was that of a girl. It went with a flsh and she was fine. “Not going to happen. I guess you resisted and didn’t get pulled into the whle unnatural magic zone of misery. Your body and spirit must match and you’re years beyond this are lost. Congratulations.”
            “I guess,” she said. “How are you going to fix Joselyn Carro without my, or her, youth?”
            “Same way I did it to you,” Veyd replied. She held onto her new blade tightly and spun it out. “This is so damn cool.”
            “Where did you find a flip blade?” asked Danica. “Only the duke’s personal guards have those in Calyne.”
            “I’m guessing the Rosters sent someone more respectable than me in the early years,” she replied. “The spider got them.” She flipped the blade back, showed her the side with the symbol of the black wolf in a blue circle, and then clipped it onto her belt.
            “So I’ll just age normally then,” Anne said to Veyd.
            “Pretty much,” Veyd replied. “She pretty much shattered your old identity. You fought her hard enough that you no longer are the old Anne Fladd. She forced your body and spirit down and the resistance was against the taint of unnaturalness. You’re spirit actually amputated its extended years like an animal bites off its paw if caught in a trap.”
            “Oh,” said Anne. Her eyes narrowed. “Who are you?”
            “You can call me Jessica but my name is technically Alice Amberwood.”
            “That’s not her real name either,” said Danica.
            “Oh that’s just lovely,” said Veyd as they entered the library. “Just spill out all my secrets.”
            “I don’t know all your secrets.” Veyd laughed and Danica grabbed her arm and pulled her ahead of the others. Anne snuck up with them still looking worried and confused. “Why are they so quiet?” she asked Veyd.
            Veyd grinned and looked back at John and Danene. “They are in a disturbing level of love,” she replied. “I think they’re just tired after repeating the same night for over half a century.”
            “She loves him?” asked Danica softly.
            “Yeah. That’s John Bastian.”
            Danica looked back, walking under the long, bright light of the library, eyes wide. “He’s gorgeous,” she said.
            “I totally know what you mean!” Veyd replied. “I’m totally not a lesbian as it turns out.”
            “Why would you be a lesbian?” asked Anne.
            “It’s an awkward long story. Don’t you tell her, Danica.” They entered the dining room which was empty save for a very old woman in Joselyn Carro’s clothes lying face first onto the table.
            “Hey sexy,” said Veyd as she pulled out a chair. Her eyes looked up at hers in horror. Veyd sighed and said, “He’s the thing. I’m sorry to tell you this but I can only cure you completely and make utterly back to normal.” Her eyes looked confused. “See what I did there. I made you think this was going to be miserable.” That’ll teach you to kick me in the balls, you evil bitch.
            Veyd’s eyes glowed golden sunlight again and she reached out and touched her shoulder. She was enveloped suddenly in a yellow light and the next instant, as a young woman, she jerked back. “What just happened?”
            She looked at Veyd, jerked out of her seat, and then looked around. She was sweating, terrified, but otherwise unharmed. “Where is she? That thing! Where is she?”
            “I don’t know,” said Danica. “Somewhere away. Teleported or maybe shot out. I don’t know.”
            She looked at her hands and pulled out her blouse in an odd gesture of examination and then felt her brights. “I’m scared,” she whimpered. She looked at the man there. “John Bastian.” She moved up to him, threw her arms around him, and wept.
            Danene gave him a look and he shrugged confusedly. “Jocelyn—”
            “Don’t speak,” she whispered.
            Bastian sighed.
            “Don’t be hard on him,” Veyd told Danene. “He’s, you know, a dude.” Danene laughed and Veyd laughed back before going into the next room, throwing herself onto the couch, and shut her eyes. “Wake me up in an hour,” she told Danica.

*          *          *

            Danica looked at the table for a moment, then reached over to grab a full bottle of wine a servant had left there, and poured a glass into her glass.
            She drunk it and tasted fabulous.
            She wondered, What now? and then, getting a strange, yet familiar, feeling wandered into the next room and saw, with no surprise, that Jessica Veyd was gone.
            It would have been lovely if Danica could imagine her part in this was over but she couldn’t. She knew Veyd would be needing her sooner or later but she supposed she needed to sort out things alone, disappear alone, off vanishing as she would in her own way following her own line until the end came and she would need her friends again: a true loner at work.
            Maybe that was true but Danica was still convinced it was just really stupid.
            Danica went outside, sat down, and drank herself stupid into the night staring up periodically at the Man on the Moon, the Living Moon, looking down at someone, somewhere who wasn’t her. By the time the light had come and he was fading away the house was filled with Roster men, panicked guests, confused townspeople from the little village nearby, and all sorts of ships and vehicles there came a familiar voice.
            “Well, well, well,” said the voice, “Now we’re drinking.”
            “Grandmother, I might be thirteen, but I something, something, something.” She grinned and looked up at Emily Roster. “Jessica’s gone, you know. Doing what she always does and disappears into her mind and the world building another insane plan.”
“It’s for the best,” said Emily. “We won’t have to lie to protect her now. We’ll say she’s not here and they’ll spend a lot of effort trying to find her in Calyne never knowing she’s somewhere else.” She hesitated. “Is, uh, she, in there?” she asked.
            “Yeah,” said Danica. “You’re going to need this more than I will—” Emily took it and drank deeply. “Your mother?”
            “First marriage. My father fell in battle and she fell in love. John Bastian.”
            “He’s in there too—”
            “You lie!” Emily replied in shock.
            “No,” Danica replied smiling. “And he’s as beautiful as they say. Now I know why she was in love with him.”
            “What is she like?”
            Danica swallowed. “Nineteen,” she said soberly. “She did not like hearing that over a half a century has passed. She’s flipped out and being comforted by Bastian in a back room.”
            “The two Johns in her life will take care of her.” Emily, of course, meant her brother and her future husband. She sat down beside Danica and took another drink straight from the bottle. She put an arm around Danica and held her there. “I’m glad you came back to us and glad you’re part of my blood now. You were always good to my family. Best servant and friend we ever had.”
            “By the way I’m an elementalist now,” Danica told her.
            “That’s lovely.”
            “Since I helped uncurse Calyne and become a valuable master magician for our bloodline in the process am I still grounded?”
            Emily burst out laughing for a long time before letting it die away slowly. She then kissed her on the head and said, “Maybe.”
            “Yay,” said Danica blandly and she reached for the bottle.
            “No. Mine. You’re too young.” She took another long drink, continued drinking for several moments, and polished it off. “Let’s go. It’s time we took my mother home.”
            “What about Anne Fladd?”
            “Seriously,” Emily replied. “I really thought they were joking.”
            “They’re not. She’s actually thirteen and a really confused, really beautiful, mixed blood girl. You could probably arrange a marriage for her amid the white families on her looks alone because she kind of looks more white than black. That ought to please those jerk bigots.”
            “All this land is hers by right,” said Emily. “My brother will have no doubt have ‘big plans’ for her and her lands.” She thought about it for a second. “I think she’ll probably end up married to one of Alfred’s sons. The third one need lands and will grow into a good man and could use a good wife with Anne Fladd’s talents.”
            “It’s a good move. She’s the last of the Calyrian Fladds if you don’t include the one that’s green.”
            Emily took a deep intake of breath through her teeth, patted Danica’s shoulder, then took her hand and then forced Danica to help her along with the painful process of explaining to her nineteen-year-old mother exactly what had happened to her life.

 

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