The Fury of Hell
PLACE: RIDGE ABOVE AND BEYOND TURNER’S COTTAGE.
TIME: 5:21 A.M. (PRE-DAWN)
NB: Weather in the Appalachian Mountains, like many remote ranges, can change unexpectedly. The early season snowstorm in which Will and Aylin found themselves—which may be indicative of either the unpredictability of the mountains or the enchanted and prophetic words of Aylin herself—presented a significant threat to their wellbeing especially in the high elevations beyond Turner’s cottage. Along with the brutal cold and heavy snow, one would also have to deal with turbulent winds. The mountain “balds” in this area are dangerous in such storms.
I walked over to the bridge ruin.
How long had it been since we escaped the bear because of the wolf?
—Left my phone back at the cabin, and this Turner won’t have a way to communicate with the real world.
Funny. I came out to Uncle Joe’s cabin to get away from phones and computers. I wanted that noise out of my life for just a few days. And now here I was wishing I had my phone.
The cold and dark mixed with the night sounds of the mountain and river. I gathered my coat into my neck and stared out over the ravine. The river gouged the snowy banks, its sound filled the river woods and bled up the small gorge. But the sound did not feed me. No nourishment. Just the bite of an unwelcomed early winter.
I looked up from river to sky. Bright white clouds wisped by the treetops. They glowed against the indigo of the night. The moon lurked somewhere up there. The stars pushed through the purple blanket. Their numbers dotted the clearing sky. They looked so far away, and clear. That usually meant dry high air—the kind that froze your eyelashes but also let you see into deep space. The sky collected above the naked treetops, flaunting its glory like my nieces used to when Sara bought them new dresses. The ridgeline looked like the spiny backs of dinosaurs huddling for warmth.
I huffed under the starry show. Air trailed from my nose and mouth like a dragon’s breath. I stood on the edge of night, the river’s edge, the cut of the gorge, gnawing on my rage.
I wrenched my coat closer, tight and stiff as it was. Me, the Gollum hovering over my precious bitterness even as the north wind swept its heavenliness across the sky. Me, and my precious.
This is what Sadie hated about me. “You go from this bright light of a person to some angry monster,” she’d say. “I’m sick of it,” she’d say. How many times did I hear her tell me she was sick of it. Yeah, well, so was I.
The wind pushed down into the ravine. I shuddered. My face and shoulder ached. I felt ragged.
I stared down into the white water. I felt its roar. The longer I stared, the closer I inched to the edge. My thoughts closed in on me, and my mind wandered into the dark corner, into the hiss. I could see myself in the air, falling into the river. The slam of freezing water. The force of weight and current. My bones crushed into the granite. And me, washing away with the sledgehammer water. Stupid thoughts, really. And I knew that, but sometimes I wandered like that.
The past year cascaded down upon me.
Never getting anywhere with work.
Never finding what so many of my old college friends seemed to have found. Some sliver of success—or at least a break. I was sick of the lost feeling. And that’s something I never thought I’d say. I didn’t like this dark corner person I’d become. It wasn’t me—the real me. As I stood near the bridge ruin, I remembered another time, from years before, when I felt like this.
I was just a freshman in college, only a year into the grieving of my nieces and uncle. This grief business was new to me. And I thought I’d move past it. No one tells you it’s a forever thing. No one tells you about the dark corners. I thought I’d be able to be the medicine my sister needed to heal. I actually thought my writing would someday be able to help her see the beauty in the world again. No one tells you how quickly the world dims.
I closed my eyes and I could see that young man standing deathly close to the railroad track on the back-campus dirt road; first year of college and the world before him. But no road map, no guide to show him the way. He’d visit those tracks and wait for the speeding train. Each week he’d walk the path, sadness and hope warring inside of him. Tragedy and joy heaving like ocean waves moving towards their rocky finish.
And he’d stand next to the tracks as the train thundered past him, feet from its force. He’d scream for a guide. He’d howl for that something he knew was there but couldn’t find. The feeling of being alive. The assurance everything was going to be okay. He’d scream until the train passed and left him breathless, chest swelling, grinning, crying, wondering where to go, who to be, what to do.
—I’ll find my own way. I’ll follow that thing far out there. Maybe if I reach for beauty long enough, I’ll seize it someday.
That’s what I told myself. Even after the crash. The grief hurt, but even then, I reached out. And I didn’t even know what I was reaching for. Maybe it was that thing Duffy said was weird about me. “You know, Will, you’re never going be successful in life without a plan. You can’t just run through life. Sooner or later you have to grow up.”
But what did Duffy know?
I kept reaching out and running through life. Until I was told not to. Until finally the world of grown-ups pushed me into one of their coffins.
“Your writing is too obscure. Try being clearer. No one reads poetry, Will. You need to be concrete.” said my college literature professor.
"This is crap,” said my editor, as she flung my page back on the table. It was my first real job. I said hello to the adult world of corporate politics that day.
“We love your passion,” said the publisher, “But no one will read this kind of writing. It needs to be more commercial.”
The coffin life had even weaselled its way into my religion. I got religion from my grandparents—my parents never could agree on a faith tradition. But Grandmother took me each Sunday. And for a while, I leaned into God.
And then one day, they got a new leader at the church, and things changed. The poetry left with the old preacher. Slowly they turned the place we gathered to sing and pray into a mall. Well, that’s how it felt. It felt like someplace I could pick up jeans, and coffee and oh, here’s a word from the Almighty.
I left that church when I found the train. I grieved the loss in my howling. But somewhere in the middle of the grief and growing up, I stopped reaching. In the adult coffin world, prayer and singing were only for the young and naïve. So, I stood in my coffin lined up next to everyone else, looking so regal and professional and smelling of death. Sure, I kicked a bit and pushed on the casket lid. But I didn’t want to escape, not really. Too much risk involved.
“Be safe, Will. Be like us. Get in line.”
And that’s what I did.
So good at getting in line these days.
So good at standing in my adult coffin.
I envied Turner’s life. He’d reached for it. He found it. And then the coffin world ate him up. But now? Now, I wasn’t sure what was happening. He’d found something in his conversation with Aylin. And … well, in the coffin world, beauty looks like distinction. And I craved it. The food for my precious. And as I hovered over my food, the air of my sophistication felt empty. I looked around surprised to find not distinction, but distance. The eerie quiet of isolation.
—I have grown up to die, I said to myself.
Didn’t Wordsworth say it? Didn’t I hear his words? That bit about people who indulge in “arbitrary and capricious habits of expression, in order to furnish foods for fickle tastes, and fickle appetites, of their own creation.”
—Welcome to my world, William!
The truth is, I gave up on beautiful things long ago. Like every good adult.
I could hear Turner in my ears still. His crying. So very un-adult. How he wrenched from Aylin. How she reached for him. I wanted her to reach for me. And hated Turner for it.
—But the nails of my coffin have rusted, I thought. And I cannot pry the lid off. How easily the gentle and lovely have fallen from my desire. How haughty and grotesque has my heart grown that I wanted the bear back to bury this coffin of a man?
Then, I looked upriver from the bridge ruin and saw something moving. I squinted in the twilight and noticed a path that led along the ravine’s edge, past the front of Turner’s cottage, and down to the river bend.
At the bend, the trail switched back and up the ridge. It rose steep and thick with powdery snow. Someone was walking from the other direction along the ravine and took the switchback trail.
The form was hulked with a white winter coat. The dim light—not night and not yet morning—veiled my view. Man or woman, whoever it was kept a strong pace straight up the mountain. The new presence set my heart pounding.
Sure that it wasn’t a bear, I decided to follow, from a distance.
By the time I reached the switchback, he was nearly out of sight on top of the ridge.
—Where are his footprints? The path shows wear, though snow-covered from last night's snow. But—
I lost him.
Place: Back at Blackthorn House
Here the journal splintered off into unrecognizable markings, similar to the seven inscriptions I’d noticed earlier. In the years since my initial reading of the journal, I’ve sent photographs of the inscriptions to several philologists in both America and in Europe. One expert in Celtic (what is commonly referred to as Gaelic) believed them to be oghams, though he could not decipher the message of the inscription.
I do not believe them to be oghams at all, but some language of enchantment unique to Thuiadah. I discovered, over time, the mystery of the inscriptions found within the journal bear out in other ways more subtle to our experience. And what I mean by that is that these strange word letters from another world do not read like a sentence, they are as it were an expression of an idea—the form and movement of knowledge rather than a simple word.
But, anyway, moving on to the next entries—I found Will’s subsequent entry several pages further on, the images of which exploded into the room. Barely did I utter even a word from the page! Did I mention that I was seated back in the great room by the fireplace? Well, my apologies. I was. And I was also still reticent of building a fire there for fear of, well I’m sure you know certainly well why I didn’t want to go near the fireplace with wood and match.
Where was I? Oh yes.
After thumbing through the pages of the iconographic writing, Will’s entry exploded into the room with such force it sent me and my chair reeling backwards. It was a violent blast and completely unexpected.
From the floor, I looked up to the bookshelf from which Will had taken the case of journals. It was then I noticed that the rows upon rows of “books” were not books at all, but an entire wall of journals. So, what was so special about this one, you ask?
Well, I’m sure we can all admit that the possibility of there being another journal capable of igniting an entire room with magic images derived from the words contained on its pages is unlikely at best. But I digress yet again. My epiphany drew my attention away from the journal I was reading to the hundreds of journals on the shelves. But then I spied, next to where Will had pulled the set of journals, a lone book that stood in the corner perfectly upright.
I rose to my feet and pushed the leather chair back to its position. I picked up Will’s journal, closed it and walked over to the bookshelf. I pushed the ladder to the far left of the bookcase and climbed to where the lone volume stood tight against the end of the shelf.
Perhaps any other book standing alone and only balanced on one side might have fallen over. But this book, a slight volume with an indigo spine and gold lettering, remained unmoved.
Curious, I reached for it, placing my palm on the exposed side, intending to slide it out. But the book did not budge. Perhaps time and moisture caused it to stick to the end of the shelf. So, I gave it a tug, nearly throwing myself off balance. The book gave just a bit, tilting forward but stopped hard and made a clicking sound.
Then, somewhere behind the bookshelf, I heard a louder clanking sound, like the bolt of a metal door locking, or in this case, unlocking. And with a rather startling creak, the entire left side of the bookcase wall gave way and pivoted inward revealing a vestibule. The bookcase was a door.
I scampered down the ladder and stepped into the open chamber, my fingers tingling with anxious curiosity. Or was it fear? The dim light from the fireplace room did little to guide my steps and I nearly fell forward when my feet stumbled down a step.
I threw my hands forward to brace myself and found the wall. It was cold and damp to the touch. My fumbling echoed in the chamber, so I could only guess how high the ceiling rose and how far down the steps led into the darkness.
Still, without my phone or any source of light, I decided to take a few steps down and see if it led to another room or door or was just a dead end. My eyes adjusted, but I still saw only the soft light falling on the charcoal walls. I heard a constant drip of water.
—Perhaps this is the well-room, I thought. Or a passage to one of those old underground streams you read about in books.
I thought of Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole for what seemed an eternity, and how her little misstep led to such an adventure. I fancied myself Alice’s brother, already on a strange adventure myself, and one continuing to expand into something new at every turn. It had taken me all of three days to get to this point in the journal, and now this.
The stairwell grew pitch black. I reached out in front of me and slowly eased down another step and found it to be a landing. I inched forward waving both hands in front of me like a blindfolded child searching for the donkey on which to pin the tail.
My hands found a wall. But not a wall. For it was not stone, nor was it iron or steel. This—whatever it was—was wooden.
I slid my hands carefully over the surface; the wood felt smooth and hard as if sanded by the passing of time. Then, my right hand found a primitive latch. I lifted it and the wooden surface swung open and I felt a rush of cool air—air that tasted like autumn, sweet yet bitter.
I kept to the right side of the opening or room or whatever laid before me, feeling my way in the darkness. I took three steps and ran into a table, hitting my right knee on the corner.
I felt around on the surface and found a small square object. It was metal of some kind—aluminium or steel perhaps. I picked it up in the darkness and then recognized the shape.
“A zippo!” I said out loud, my voice echoing in the deep chamber.
And it was. I opened it and snapped the flint and it lit immediately. The warm flame-light exposed the edges of a room bigger than the flame could illuminate. But there on the table sat a beautiful lantern—a custom piece of steel that mimicked the gas lanterns I encountered when I parked the Rover in front of Blackthorn several days ago. The bending metal formed a wolf’s mouth opening around the open glass of the lantern as if the wolf was about to eat the flame.
I lit the wolf-lantern and the space came to life as the light gently pushed the darkness away revealing an extraordinary room of more shelves and tables and chairs and an iron woodstove set deep in the room—its flue connected to a hole in the concrete wall. A cot or a day bed or whatever you cared to call it, set off in the right corner of the room, about ten feet from the stove. And it looked recently used. In the center of the room sat a large square table with an enormous map stretched from end to end.
—Boy, if the Smithsonian ever caught wind of this artefact, I thought.
I found two more wolf-lanterns and lit them. And decided to get a fire going and have a longer look around. With the fire crackling and the smell of burning cedar filling the chamber, I inspected the map. It detailed the land of Thuiadah, the place from which Aylin claimed to have come.
I recognized the Sawtooth Range from Aylin’s story and the forest of the Brónagh-böurne and the Fire Falls. And then there was the unnamed mountain which rests to the northern-most point in the lands of Tàirnaich beyond the Edgewood.
But other places were new to me, like The Sapphire Shore to the northwest and Finnean’s Copse and Fortress. The southern lands below the Fire Falls were labeled “Borderlands.” On the southern-most edge of the Borderlands laid a large gem. I’m not good with my gems, but this one was dark purple—nearly solid in color, opaque and the size of my fist.
I picked it up thinking perhaps the map might roll up and that the gem was used as a paperweight. But the map stayed in place. Then, I noticed it was pegged in the corners.
“A marker,” I said to myself, quizzically inspecting the fantastic stone.
Under the gem, the letters “SP” was scribbled and underlined.
“Springer’s Pass!” I exclaimed as I set the journal on the map and tried to page back to where Aylin had first mentioned Springer’s Pass.
But as soon as I set the book down the fire flared up and startled me so much I stepped away from the map and journal. Then, a wind from nowhere flung the journal open, the pages flapped violently, and again the room exploded with light. The purple gem I held in my right hand glowed translucently.
That’s when I noticed another smaller gem near the unnamed mountain on the map—about half the size of the purple one. It too glowed, but with a deep red.
As if the light and gems weren’t enough, a deep and terrible sound shook the room. It felt as though it rumbled beneath my feet. And for a split second, the rumble sounded like a word or a voice or something like the two.
But I could not decipher either and moved further away from the table. Then, images from the journal took shape in the air in front of me, and I saw Will, now running along the ridgeline in the deep snow chasing after a man far ahead of him. I stood entranced in the light as the story unfolded in me as much as before me.
Place: Ridge above Turner’s cottage
My legs burned. I gulped for breath. My eyes watered and stung. The light of the coming morning hung in and around the sleeping trees like memory about an old house. I felt a sort of invitation to keep going, so I pushed on. I tried to push harder to keep him in my sights.
I made it to the top of the ridge. The snowy mountain top seemed to unfurl itself in an undulating landscape of sparse oaks, gigantic and solemn, sporadic groves of fir, and half-light. My boots kicked the powder, making a gentle shushing sound. The white mountain floor dotted as it was with small boulders and roots and the blue-grey light gathered among the gunmetal of the oaks and embellished the morning with a welcomed comfort. But my curiosity had me, and I kept on my pace up the ridge.
Out of the steep section, I spotted the figure again moving swiftly through the trees and snow. The mountain levelled and I thought I’d made the summit. I pursued until I found myself standing at a large outcropping of boulders where a frozen waterfall and pool glowed white in the twilight. I’d lost him again and knew I’d lost my way on the ridge—that sinking feeling in which you know you pushed too far. In my focus and pursuit, I’d forgotten to keep visual notes of my way. I had no idea where Turner’s cottage was. So, I waited a moment in the pre-dawn grey.
Then, from the base of the falls, I spied a small object hurling fast towards me. An axe thudded into the pine tree beside me, splintering it open. I jumped backwards and scrambled to keep my footing.
“Why do you follow me?”
The voice boomed from somewhere around the base of the frozen falls. The growing rage I felt in the cabin had returned with the axe. My pursuit of the figure had allayed it, but now, with this new confrontation, I felt it return with vigor. I was scared but the anger in me beat out the fear and I tugged on the axe handle and wrenched it from the tree.
My breath heaved into the cold air and I tried to focus.
“Why are you here?” I yelled back with guttural angst. But no answer came.
I rounded the frozen pool and drew nearer to the falls. The voice sounded again but this time from above me, atop the falls.
“Be careful your approach, my friend. I am no one to palter with.”
“You be careful!” I shouted craning my neck towards the top of falls. My aggression surprised me.
As I stared up, I saw something falling towards me but realized it was my adversary. He landed behind me on the opposite side of the frozen pool and creek, landing perfectly and in a crouched position. I looked at him, then turned once more towards the falls—easily a fifty feet drop. I felt as I did when I realized I had approached the pack of wolves with a single shot rifle. I turned toward the figure, stepped back and grabbed the axe with two hands, readying myself for God knows what.
“Do not be cavalier. You do not want this fight, Will.”
“I will be how I—what did you say?” The man did not answer. He only stood there staring at me. “How do you—how do you know my name?”
“Put your weapon down and maybe I’ll tell you.”
“You started this when you threw it at me.”
“I did not throw it at you. Do you really think I meant to hit the pine?”
“Then, why the warning?”
“There are some things that should be discovered.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
No answer followed.
The awkward silence hung in the cold morning like a windhover. And in those moments, I took in the man standing across the frozen water from me. At six-three I was not a small man, but this man made me feel small and it wasn’t just his height. His broad shoulders gathered his shaggy long red hair.
What I thought was a white winter coat from afar was a rugged tunic. And it wasn’t all white, but woollen, speckled with grey and black. It was clasped around his neck with the same buckle I’d noticed on Aylin’s pants. His boots rose to his knee and looked to be the hide of a white bear—thick fur matted with snow.
He wore tight-fitting pants and shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His exposed forearms looked strapped together with a tangle of muscle. His clean-shaven and chiselled face looked placid. Though he appeared serious, his eyes glinted in the light with a kind of delight at the moment.
“Where’d you get that clasp on your shawl?”
“This is no shawl.”
“Whatever it is—the clasp. Where’d you get it.”
“I made it.”
He stepped to the side and began to walk the perimeter of the frozen pool.
“Who are you?”
He continued to walk, looking at the frozen water as if he was contemplating if he should tell me his name or kill me.
“My name is Borean,” he finally said.
“You’re not from around here, are you Borean?” I said, trying to lighten the mood.
“I am, and I’m not.”
I tightened my grip on the axe. I surmised that any attempt at humour would do me little good with this man.
“Do you intend to use the weapon, Will?”
“I will if I’m forced to. Now tell me, how do you know me?”
“And what am I to do? Do I not stand threatened?” he said. “I know you only because of her.”
I didn’t know how to respond. He walked slowly on the water’s edge.
“You know Aylin?
“How did you do that?”
I looked up to the waterfall and said, “The leap. Those falls are at least 50 feet high. How did you …”
But as I turned towards him again, he was gone. Gone from sight, but not from my hearing. He spoke from the woods surrounding the frozen falls.
“Let us drop the façade, my friend, shall we?” he said. “The book you carry is no mere journal. By now, you know this. It is a talisman of Tairnach. I can sense you carry it—though I am not distressed by this, Will. However, if you do not intend to use it or heed it, I will take it from you with force.”
“With force? Who do you think you are?”
“I am Borean.”
“Yes, I know. You’ve said.” I replied as I gripped the axe handle and turned slowly, looking around the wood and back up to the top of the falls. Clearly, this Borean character was from Aylin’s land—for neither he nor she could grasp my colloquialisms. But my response barely left my mouth when a rush of snow kicked up from an absent wind.
I shielded my eyes.
I shouted in surprise.
I fell back, dropping the axe.
He was upon me.
So much force.
—My chest might cave, I thought.
Into the ground with pulverizing force.
—What had I done? It was just a journal.
My breath emptied into the freezing air.
And then, and then.
My dizzying mind. My rage unkind—rising up yet only to shatter against the strength of Borean.
“Ah!” I screamed. I coughed. We rolled in the snow down into the trees sloping back down the ridge.
“Ah!” I screamed again. But my cry fell into the great roar of a bear.
They were upon us.
We stopped rolling. Borean shot up, axe in hand. Somehow he scooped it from the snow while pummeling me to the ground.
I stood up behind him, shaking, gasping. My eyes darted, looking for them. When I looked in front of me once again, Borean had vanished.
Had he known the bears were near? Was our collision less of a confrontation, and more of him knocking me out of the way of the bears? Questions and fear pumped in my veins.
The air felt muted and biting. The sound of the mountain seemed to have vanished and an eerie calm fell into the woods if only for mere moments. We’d fallen deeper into them than I thought. I looked up through the trees and saw a bear barreling down on me with ferocious speed and stealth. His girth bulged as he silently charged. I stood frozen and exposed. Thoughts of death rifled through my mind. Funny how memories from your childhood find you.
“Will, sometimes a bear will false charge just to scare ya,” Uncle Joe used to say. But I knew this was no false charge. This was death running headlong at me. Then my body snapped out of the trance and I flinched away from my pain and started to run in the direction I hoped was toward Turner’s cottage and the river, down the slope.
I took a few steps and looked back to see the deranged black bear lunging at me. And just as I felt the cold claws of the bear upon my flesh and its massive weight collide into me, another figure flashed into my periphery. It was white. It was Borean. The three-way collision knocked me further down the slope.
I winced and tumbled.
I found my feet faster this time and drew up on one knee, wet and freezing, my hair matted with snow and the blood from the bear claw graze.
Borean had sent the black bear reeling. But it wheeled around and scrambled with maddening fury to finish me off. I froze but not just because of the fresh assault. Behind the black bear several—I couldn’t make out how many, maybe five—brown bears closed. Massive gangly bears in full charge.
I tried to stand, but my ribs felt like someone had taken a sledgehammer to them. I fell back to my knees and hunched over on my palms.
The pain seared through my abdomen.
I looked up, expecting the mauling blow of the bear, when Borean charged in from my right and tackled it, hitting it with his shoulder. The force of the collision sent the bear into a nearby tree where it fell motionless. I’d never seen such a display of pure strength from a man.
Borean slid in the snow after hitting the first bear and somehow spun around to face the brown bears. I thought for sure they’d overtake him. But Borean threw off his cloak and drew two short swords from his belt—I’d missed seeing the swords when we first met at the falls. In a flash, the short swords flew, each striking one of the first two bears. They dropped dead, skidding to a stop, staining the snow red.
Borean’s onslaught scattered the remaining three bears. The woods filled with their hideous bellows as they slowly circled. Borean, now weaponless stood between me and the possessed beasts.
Then the air changed.
The sun still had not eclipsed the horizon, almost as if the half-light fended it off. A dank air passed through the trees from behind me and enveloped the whole ridge.
A shadow moved over me with the disgusting air. I scrambled to my feet, crying out in pain from my ribs and in alarm at the stench, but Borean without turning said, “Do not move, Will!”
I stood still in the shadow-morning.
And here’s where my memory fails.
In the stillness and shadow there came a movement. Something screamed up the ridge from the valley. I remember a sound similar in its horrifying tone. That one night years ago on college break. I had borrowed the Ross’s cabin and invited Ethan and my brother to join when they finished work. That evening, as I waited for them to join me, I stood in front of the cabin on the hill that looked out across the valley.
As I stood, taking in the sunset, a screaming sound grew in volume and intensity and rose up from the valley. The terrifying sound, I discovered the next day, was a bobcat frenzy. Maybe they were mating or celebrating a kill, I don’t know. All I know is that it sounded like children being tortured, screaming out in deathlike fury.
That’s the sound I heard that overwhelmed me on the ridge. The death-fury sound rose up and a shadowy forced knocked me to the ground and buried my face in the snow. I lifted my head, my body throbbed from the impact, and I tried to call out to Borean.
The shadow movement pushed up the snow all around me and I saw the bears retreat from Borean, who turned towards me and braced himself, his arms crossed in front of his face. I supposed him to be shielding himself from the movement and shadow. But I don’t know.
I tried to steady my head. I could feel myself losing consciousness. Then, through the shadow and blowing snow and the awful screaming sound, there came a familiar sight.
A blue light flashed into the shadow.And with it a new sound. Not a death-fury sound, but one not from this world. And it was more than sound.
The mountain rang out with reverberations, like the bow of a cellist moving back and forth across the strings. And not just the sound of the bow and the strings, but the ringing of the passion that beamed from the cellist’s whole body. And it was more than the sound and passion, it was a song. Something felt as much as heard. Something thought as much as sung.
For a moment, a battle surged there on the ridge—a battle of sound. One, the fury of hell, the other, the ringing of passion. But the battle did not last if it was a battle at all. For the ringing won out. It was like the autumn wind when it pushes grey storm clouds from the valley and all you can see is blue—blue forever. The screaming fury dissolved in the echoes of light and the morning thunder of low cello notes climbing.
Was this the fire song Aylin liked to talk about in weird moments? Was it now, again, rising up in this flash of a moment when I could not only hear it, only feel it? A flash that took me to a place of pure life yelling, “Bravo!” and rejoicing.
Fire song or not, that was the feeling, the sound, the joy that invaded the woods that half-light morning. And I knew it was Aylin. I didn’t see her, just the light from her sword.
And as quickly as the shadow and stench and screams arrived, they vanished. And though the death-fury-sound receded, the movement of the shadow bore down upon my body. I felt as though it might push me through the mountain itself. My neck pulsed with pain as I tried to steady my head. I wanted to see her. I wanted to see her sword. I wanted to see how it made the mountain look. My eyes blinked heavy and slow.
And there she was.
She moved through the snow like a lynx, sword drawn and silent. Her cloak floating in her draft. She whirled her sword high above her head and from her mouth came the sound.
The sound of life.
At that moment the oaks looked as though they stood at attention, honoring their protector, their life infuser. The snow did not look white but flooded with the gold of dawn. The sun broke the horizon and the whole mountain was caught in song.
She ran to Borean’s side and they embraced. The gold and blue of life song flooded my eyes and I cried out for her.
“Aylin!” I shouted. “I am here! Aylin!”
She and Borean ran towards me, sword drawn and axe in hand. I felt like I was reaching for them. I felt like I could hear myself calling for them. I felt like I was caught in the glory of the mountain dawn. But as Aylin ran closer I saw her face. It wasn’t looking at me but behind me. And it wasn’t jubilation in her eyes, but a terrible ferocity. I couldn’t move. And then, I couldn’t see.
TO BE CONTINUED …
Get ready for the next instalment, coming very soon. Things are getting real, eh?
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Until next time, my friend.