Driving The Night

[04.19.00] » by Matthew Schuele

Wil found her floating face-down in the pool that night, fearing the worst, perhaps appropriately. Cordelia’s thin strands of chestunt brown hair were splayed about her face in a manner characteristic of the dead, and thus, the unconcerned.

Minutes later, they were clustered around her. Wil Knights knelt over the girl, as thoroughly soaked as she from dragging her from the water, and whispered words of encouragement and pretended to her and to himself to be able to help her. He wiped away the blood, and applied the simple healing spells he knew. Cordelia died anyway, the soft red glow emanating briefly from her body indicative of the passing of an Anima.

The meantime, Alexei Sergein had the Egg, and was on his way to amass even more power.

That night the lot of them were very cold, and were very wet, and Wil felt as alone as anyone had ever had under the cold blanket of black clouds flowing above them. There was no rain. The sense of the world, at that time, was less one of sorrow than of utter hopelessness.

Narcisse was uncharacteristically emotional, moping quietly, one hand propped against a nearby building. He was making a sound not unlike sobbing. Tyler turned away as well, chin cradled in a leather-gloved hand as if in deep thought. Nina did her best to comfort Wil, who was kneeling over the girl, weeping softly, head in hands.

There was really nothing to say.

Wil watched as Alexei’s dragon plummetted from its tenuous mid-air perch to the floor of the quarry interior far below. Nina lay unconscious, a disturbing pool of blood forming about her head.

The black dragon blood mixed with their red blood, spattered and splashed across the walls, and floor of the quarry. To Wil, life had become depressingly more complex than a matter of who died, or why, if ever there was a reason why. It had become a matter of how many. The certain knowledge that the passing of a few thousand years would leave only the graves and body count was the sort of thing adventurers typically refrained from giving much thought.

Wil realized, as the cold, frothing sea water splashed about his legs, filling the cold, and the pirates ran for their lifeboats, clunking noisily down the ship’s hardwood sides in a mechanical display of panic and the fear for life, of death, that it was probably better this way.

He ran to the deck, trying to catch the Egg before its departure. The sky had turned again to a cold, dark sheet, rolling across the world in noise and thunder. The rain-slicked wooden platform held only Wil himself and a single pirate, Egg-wielding, opposite him.

They circled quietly. The pirate-- the Egg, it would have taken him over completely by now-- smiled confidently. Wil gazed out from under his hat, looking more weary and grim than anything else.

Egg first, then. It lashed out a sinuous red tendril, slapping heavily against the deck, throwing up a spray of mist. Wil dodged backward, summoning the Anima of his wooden staff and the stone knife he carried to incant a Delta Petra. A glittering wave of light sent the Egg stumbling backwards across the deck as it tilted in that direction. The Egg regained its footing promptly, and charged back at Wil, who this time attempted to parry with his staff. The tentacle wrapped itself around the staff and snatched it away, striking at Wil from a distance using it. The impact of the blows stung all the worse for the cold and mist, and Wil found himself driven back against the ship’s railing. It tilted in that direction, and the vast blue sea loomed before him.

This is the end, he thought for a moment, before the deck tilted back. The Egg struck again, but Wil dodged aside. A thought occurred to him-- if he could get a hold on the staff--

The Egg took another swing, but Wil cleanly sidestepped the attack and seized the weapon by the crook of its head. And he made a very clear and conscious decision, channeling the Animas in the proper method to cause a second Delta Petra to surge forth from the staff’s opposite end, catching the Egg full in the chest. It stumbled backward over the railing.

Wil knew that the Egg, the ultimate Quell and prize, would never be his. It had already taken lives-- the pirate’s, his father’s. There was no reason it shouldn’t consume him, as well. Its host shell of a host body splashed limply into the sea, disappearing into the depths. The leaden cold gray Egg fell in a perfectly straight descent and slipped quietly beneath the waves, leaving a tiny ripple immediately swallowed by the tumultuous surging of the sea.

And the ship’s downward slant turned into a plunge.

Armored and miles from shore, Wil had no hope. As he floated quietly below the shimmering surface, the foam spray of his plunge bubbling back up above his head, the vast and vacant sight of the sea in a storm unfolded before him, a massive blue plain of mountains, valleys, and hills. An entire world seemed to come into being before his eyes.

Wil took a last glance up at the moon, shimmering above the surface, in an opening between clouds. He was at peace.

Wil awoke, soaking wet, laid out on a mattress in a dirty little port on the seashore at night. A few sailors stood nearby, sitting around a fire. One approached him: "So, you’re finally awake." Wil nodded numbly. "That’s good. You’ll have your land legs back, given time. Rest easy."

Again, he nodded quietly.

Something in Wil had died and been reborn in that vast undersea world, beneath the surface. He’d remember all of it for the rest of his life.



the end

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