Elmiryn wondered if she was really breaking rules. Nyx kept warning her about adding to her debt to Harmony, blah blah blah… It hadn’t even been a week and the warnings already felt wearisome. And had the girl not traversed into Elmiryn’s own subconscious? Was that within her domain as a heavenly champion? As far as the woman was concerned, the gods could do with detailing their boundaries a little better.
“Me and rules don’t get along do they, Cat?” Elmiryn panted as she slid down an embankment of shadows. Running with dead weight over such strange terrain was exhausting enough without the woman’s constant ache of addiction dragging her down. How long had it been exactly since she’d last had a drink?
At this rate, I may as well just find a way to inject liquor into my bloodstream. O’course, that’d be deadly. Ha! Gives buzz kill a new meaning, Elmiryn thought sardonically.
At the bottom of the embankment, she could feel a pressure pushing against her–a veil perhaps? The winds were certainly stronger…angry, even. Was this what separated the different dimensions? She wasn’t even sure she was doing this right. She had just picked a direction and ran, all the while trying to visualize an entryway to Nyx’s mind. The threads of the Umbralands pulsed and shivered. She didn’t know if this was them cooperating, or if it was the universe’s way of saying, “Fuck off!”
“Elmiryn!” she heard Syria cry behind her.
The warrior looked up to see the enchantress at the top of the crest, her dark hair whipping with fury. With a raised hand, Syria blasted out the crest beneath her, sending an avalanche of darkness down on their heads. Elmiryn shouted and put up her fae shield, the solid weave of air and dust straining as they deflected the cascade while she sprinted forward with Kali, out of the way.
The pressure around the woman intensified as she stumbled over the shifting shadows. The ground was turning uneven. She grunted as she fought to keep her grip on Kali, and just when she thought she was going to lose her hold–
She made a breakthrough.
Elmiryn crashed onto what appeared to be moonlit soil, but when she looked up, she saw no light–only pitch darkness. Around her were jagged rocks, where in them glowed the twisted forms of those caught between bestial transformation. Elmiryn stared at these, before remembering her charge. The sound of Syria’s pursuit was gone, as was the whipping wind and the pressure.
“Kali!” She reached over to where Kali had fallen and gripped the feline’s arm, her knees scraping as she crawled closer to her.
But the Twin did not open her eyes.
Elmiryn felt breathless. She pressed a hand to her forehead, then glanced around her, then held Kali’s face. She didn’t understand. This was supposed to work. Nyx’s consciousness was supposed to override Kali’s and allow the feline to breathe again…at least, that was what the warrior had hoped would happen.
“Cat!” She shook Kali. “Wake up!”
Then because she didn’t know what else to do, she started breathing into Kali’s mouth and pressing on her chest as the Fiamman medics during her first year of recruitment had taught her. She kept repeating the process until her panic and fury won out.
“Kali!” Elmiryn screamed, slapping the twin in the face. “You wake the fuck up, right now!”
But even as she struggled to wake the feline, Elmiryn could sense, through the echoes of the space around her, that Nyx was now falling. She looked up and felt the air grow cold, heard Nyx’s frightened confusion like a trembling whimper in her ear.
Elmiryn tried to speak around the growing lump in her throat. She was certain the girl could hear her. “Nyx… Kitten, I’m sorry!” She shook her head and tangled her hands in the mess that was her ponytail. Her voice raised an octave in her stress, and she fought to keep her breathing even. “This was your life! I shouldn’t have gambled with it!”
The woman didn’t hear Nyx’s voice. Rather, she felt her name in the air with every breath she took.
The warrior hung her head, one hand on Kali’s shoulder. “Syria stopped Kali’s breathing. I thought, if I reunited your consciousness, you could help her breathe again! I was trying to save the both of you! I just didn’t expect–”
The woman cut off with a sputter as a voice that was not Nyx’s boomed around her.
Elmiryn? Wh-What are you doing in Nyx’s mind??
Elmiryn stood with a start, her mouth hung open. “Lethia!?”
Lethia Artaud could count the number of minds she had read on one hand. In her training with Syria, she had been told that sentient minds were a complicated thing, and even the master enchantress hadn’t done her first full reading until the age of twenty. As such, the most Lethia had been allowed to do were quick scans–the sort of smash and grab procedure she used whenever stealing other people’s memories or abilities. The reason for this was…well…she stole things. It had been involuntary for Lethia. Her power was so great that it cannibalized that of others, snatching and grabbing at information with greedy phantom hands. When it was “clear” Lethia could not control this, Syria stopped allowing for scans, reasoning that perhaps more training was in order. It had shamed the girl to think that she would be behind in her training as an enchantress all because she couldn’t control one of the most basic enchantment techniques.
But like the danger of making eye contact with others, this too turned out to be a lie. Lethia could read minds without stealing something. She’d done it when Izma had manipulated her into playing her game. She could see the heart and soul of those across from her and leave everything she saw right in the mind it belonged to.
So when she held Nyx’s eyes (old habits die hard) she focused her ishin, the essence of her power and a sort of extension of consciousness, and gently pierced the Ailuran’s mindscape. Her progress was tentative and cautious–partly because Nyx’s mind was so complex and fragile, and partly because she could still feel Nyx’s anger towards her. It hurt Lethia’s head, and needless to say, it hurt her heart, but she was doing this to save Nyx’s life. When a person collapsed without explanation and there was a maniacal enchantress out trying to kill people, Lethia thought it was reasonable to guess that dark enchantment was at play.
But before Lethia could find the source of the problem, she came across…
“Elmiryn?” The teenager’s eyes fluttered, and she heard Quincy join at her side. The wizard was being annoyingly distracting, but the enchantress just managed to block her out and asked aloud next, “Wh-What are you doing in Nyx’s mind??”
Lethia felt her surprise dissipate as she felt Nyx’s desperation press in on her like a giant’s fist. “Elmiryn, gods damn it, are you the reason she can’t breathe right now!?”
Elmiryn’s response was rushed and teeming with emotion: Syria cursed Kali and I thought joining the Twins together would fix that but I fucked it up and–
Lethia slammed her fist into her thigh, her teeth bared with frustration. “I’ll yell at you later, just get out of her head now so I can fix your mess!”
The warrior didn’t stay to argue. In a blink she was gone, and Lethia took a breath to calm her professional outrage.
Arrogant! To think she could just mess around with other people’s minds without prior training and not face any consequences! Her fae powers are getting to her head! The enchantress seethed.
Lethia stroked Nyx’s hair, her eyes closing as she sought out that part of the Ailuran’s mind that controlled basic reflexes. “Nyx, you’re going to be okay,” she murmured to the older girl.
As okay as you’ll ever be, Halward help you and your luck! Lethia thought wryly.
…I…can hear you…you know, Nyx replied in her mind, her reddening face screwing up in annoyance.
Lethia blushed just as she reactivated Nyx’s breathing. “S-Sorry.”
It was a painful reminder of why Lethia was still just a journeyman enchantress.
Elmiryn tumbled back into the Umbralands as she couldn’t come up with an adequate route straight from Nyx’s mind back to the Real World. She was in a hurry to comply with Lethia’s demand, and she wanted desperately to know if the enchantress was able to save the Ailuran. As simple as she had hoped for their relationship to be, Elmiryn was aware that something more complicated existed between her and the girl, she just didn’t know what. She had wanted to explain this to Nyx after her outburst earlier–to tell her that just because she didn’t think they were an “item” that the Ailuran was still special to her. There was a phrase Elmiryn had heard, but she couldn’t remember if it was from her world or that other one: “I love you but I’m not in love with you,” or…something?
The warrior did a mental face-palm.
Slay me, I’m an idiot.
Of course, nearly losing someone important to one usually resulted in such emotionally convoluted go-arounds as this. It wasn’t as if Elmiryn hadn’t felt such turmoil before. Nearly losing her second-in-command and best friend in the whole world, Saelin, during the Fiamman-Ailuran war had just about punched a cannon’s hole into the redhead’s chest. It was a deep embarrassing secret that the woman wondered, for a very brief time, if she actually lovedSaelin, and thus that was the cause of her distress.
But no. It soon became clear that she loved the man as a brother, and with great pains she tried to forget that harrowing second when society’s niggling expectations had nearly got the better of her. It was why she had reacted so strongly to Saelin proposing to her, shortly before her exile from the kingdom. Elmiryn was embarrassed her integrity as a person had nearly been compromised.
Her? …Love a man?
But in the droves of female company she had enjoyed, she had yet to find anyone that truly made her wish to stick around.
But did that mean monogamy? Preposterous! After all, didn’t people have their favorite whores to frequent?
Elmiryn paled and stopped as she was trudging her way back up the shadow embankment.
What the fuck is the matter with me? Maybe I need Lethia to shrink my head. This can’t keep up!
The warrior scrabbled up the last stretch of darkness to the top of the crest, the angry winds spurring her forward as if the universe were trying to push her away from the lines she had crossed.
A few steps, and the woman was reminded just why she had been in such a hurry to go the opposite direction not a moment before.
“Your gamble has cost me…” Syria seethed from behind.
Elmiryn drew her sword and whipped around, lashing out with as much fae power as she could to augment her swing. The wind and dust that arced from her blade scythed into the darkness, ineffectual.
The warrior jerked around as she heard Syria’s voice again, closer now. “I have stopped with the games. Now either you take me back…or we both die here!”
Then the shadowy earth exploded beneath the woman’s feet.