The Tale of Two Mountains- Pt. 8

isaandnoel

RIVER

Harvey’s eyes widened as he watched the wanderer writhing on the ground. “Issa, I fear there has been a mistake, that this vial did not contain what your wanderer believed it would contain, and he has unintentionally brought an end to the second life you have granted him.”

“He is not dying, and he is not my wanderer,” Isabella answered sharply.  “He is only coughing and spewing at his tincture as an infant does.  A grown man should be ashamed to act so.”

“You answer his misery with such cruelty,” Harvey scowled at her, holding his own body tight, against the traveler’s pain. Isabella might have advised him once again to block the traveler out in order to protect himself, but she doubted he would listen, and besides, she was angry with him for keeping them there so long and knew she was only bound to get angrier still if she continued trying to reason with him, as he added, “The mothers would scold you for your lack of compassion.”

“Scold me?” she sniped, getting to her feet. “We have broken our Mdonyatra. I came here with you.  I helped you take care of his this man. We tended his wounds together. Harvey, you said you were just going to look through his belongings, and we would go back to our homes where our Mdrai undoubtedly wait to discover where we have been, but instead you are on your knees, nurturing this outsider, against our doctrines, and now…” Her breath caught in her chest.  Now she could not find words for the confusion building inside her, but perhaps there were some things she would never be able to admit to anyone, not even to Harvey Frank, and certainly not when he looked at her as though she were more foreign to him than the stranger that lie on the ground between them. “Now I shall go and take my scolding for the trouble compassion has brought me,” she said, turning on her heel, but she only made it a few steps before her hand was on her lips, rubbing once more at the stain of what she had done. She had brought the man back from death, and Harvey would thank her by accusing her of cruelty while the one she saved wasted the very breath she had given him on wailing. “He is your wanderer now,” she trembled, furious and frightened, allowing her feet to carry her off against the hesitation that weighed heavily upon her. “I have given more than enough… to both of you.”

Isabella ran toward the tunnel, expecting Harvey to try to stop her, to force her back if necessary, insisting the wanderer needed her, insisting that he needed her—or at the very least to ask why she had concealed herself, even though he kept her enveloped in his protection. If he had, she might have told him the truth, begged him to help her make sense of what had happened, to help clear her head so she could think straight, but as she hurried into the tunnel, blackness engulfing her, the traveler’s gasping began to subside, falling off into quiet sobs, and she heard Harvey whispering, “It is all right, Wanderer. I shall stay until you no longer need me.”

The man whimpered, “Oh, damn, it burns. Phileas, you bastard, what have you done to me.”

Isabella gritted her teeth, only making it as far as the first branch in the path before stopping to lean against the wall, pressing her palms into her wet eyes, the wanderer’s pleading too much to bear, even though she had no idea what his odd words meant or why it should matter so much to her. As Harvey answered, “I am here. I shall stay. Do not worry,” Isabella hurried down the wrong path, one of many such paths meant to lead stray wanderers to their deaths.  No one would look for her there, and though she knew the way was dangerous, she had to rid herself of the anguish stirring inside her before she made her way back home. So she sat against the wall, her knees tucking into her chest as she loosed a quiet curse, heaving silent cries, grateful for her ability to hide herself so completely, grateful to be alone, and yet startled by the terrible thought that she had always been alone, even while her empathy allowed her to sense so much of those around her.

“What have I done?” she whispered into the darkness.

“What have I done?” her own voice replied from the depths in mocking.

She had broken her Mdonyatra, but worse than knowing she had broken her sacred vow was the idea that her vow had not been so sacred after all. Everyone is alone, she thought, great tears filling her hands, the truth of the wanderer’s solitude haunting her, even now.

When she first felt him lingering at the base of their mountain, Isabella had been intrigued by the cause she found within him. This stranger was strong-willed, knowing exactly what he had to do and having every intention of doing it, never mind what perils might befall him along the way. Isabella had never felt such purpose within anyone, but then for thousands of years the mountain had protected her people from those who lived in the outside world.  Their lives were simple.  The seers received the veils of Fate, the empaths knew the reasons of the soul, the nurturers helped to bring about balance, sustaining the others in their times of need, and the augurs did their best to make sense of it all and guide them with wisdom.  The people who lived there in that mountain were never so fierce or wild as this wanderer seemed, and when she felt it in him, something inside her longed to go his way, darting off in flight, unrestrained, battling the elements for her own cause, so great it consumed her.  But Isabella knew her place.  She may have quietly wished this elf would succeed, so she could understand what it was he sought from them, and it had been clear from the beginning that finding her people was the wanderer’s only hope, he was so full of desperation, so it was natural she was curious to know why, but she was bound to honor her Mdonyatra.  As an aspirant she would one day guide her people in the ways of Fate, and as Fate’s steward, she had always upheld their doctrines.  Despite what she felt of this elf, who intruded on their peace, the wanderer was easily set aside when it was obvious her people struggled with his presence and his determination to reach their home.

But in the shadow of his death, she had lost her way.  In his death, this man’s inexplicable will became even clearer to her than before. It was as though he was tethered to this world, to his purpose here, singularly focused, his soul bound to this lonesome life of waiting, of searching for something he feared he would never find. The moment she felt him hanging on at the edge of himself, Isabella had been consumed by pity for this stranger, whose spirit remained vehement as ever, steadfast in his cause, though his body was broken and his time on this earth was through. She had never felt pity for anyone, there was no need for such sentiments in their home.  It was difficult, now, not to be ashamed of herself for allowing her own emotions to lead her so far astray, but at the same time, it was impossible not to question everything she had known, having witnessed the truth as this man lived it even beyond this life.

The mothers had taught them that everyone lived and died and lived again, in turn. In the prophecies in the Hall of Records, each soul who had ever entered the world could be traced bt their Mdrai, who could see within the veils the pathways connecting whom one had been before to whom one would become in life after life. Yet Harvey had sensed that the wanderer would not live again. Even when he believed the man would bring misfortune to their people, he had sought to rescue him, because he could not allow him to die in this way, so completely. Isabella did not know if the wanderer would never be reborn, but as he lay there, his body lifeless, she had felt the irrepressible force of his soul grasping for any way back, to do whatever it was he had come there to do, to know whatever it was he had sought their people in order to know, and she had breathed life into him, to save him… not from death, she thought. He did not fear death. Nor from Fate. She was not certain Fate had set him on this journey, though she believed Harvey when he said Fate guided him there. In truth, she did not know why she had done it, except that she had felt the overwhelming urge to save him from an eternity of waiting alone.

“Does everyone beyond this mountain have such a purpose that he would deny death?” she whispered, shivering on the cold ground, the damp, frozen must of the tunnel burning at her lungs.

This time, the tunnel did not reply.

Now that such doubts had crept in and taken hold, who would save her from herself, she thought, rubbing her hands briskly over her arms, shuddering with guilt. The only thing she could say with absolute certainty was that she deserved much worse than a scolding from the mothers for the things she had done.

_______________________

Tale of Two Mountains, Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3, Pt. 4, Pt. 5, Pt. 6, Pt. 7, Pt. 8, Pt. 9, Pt. 10, Pt. 11, Pt. 12, Pt. 13, Pt. 14, Pt. 15, Pt. 16

The Tale of Two Mountains- Pt. 7

isaandnoel

MOUNTAIN

 

Hushed, angry voices drifted up out of the nothingness, whispering in tongues Noel had never heard before. He opened his eyes as much as he could, but his mind was still dazed and his body coursed with an impossible ache. Firelight danced across the cave walls, casting monstrous shadows, blurring the ancient pictographs, so they disappeared altogether in the confusion. Taree had given him the potion and left him there to live or die in the Dreaming. Now a man and woman spoke from somewhere unknowable. Perhaps it was the Wangarr debating what was to be done with the pale-skinned elf, who presumed he could become Yolngu and touch the hand of creation. He had gotten what he needed though. He knew about the mountain where the ones who listened to Fate lived. He had seen the hidden entrance to their Shambhala just below the summit, felt the roaring wind ripping through him, the ice tearing at his flesh. The mountain had cast him down, and he had died, he thought, his bleary mind attempting to make sense of the strange coloring of the rocks, the shadows of great beasts looming over him, and the rancid fetor of wet yak, made worse by heat of the flames. He had been carried away, slung over the back of some animal.

“Where am I?” he croaked weakly, attempting to sit up, only to fall back groaning against the pain. Swearing through ragged breaths, he leaned his head forward to look down at what was left of him. His right arm, wrapped up with sticks and bloodstained linen, was bound tightly to his chest, where oozing wounds were covered in long, slender leaves coated in thick brown sludge. Whoever rescued him definitely wasn’t a proper healer, not even a doctor of men, he thought, which caused some concern over the wellbeing of his leg. The bones had torn through muscle and flesh, so it was a decent candidate for some vulgarian butcher, upon deeming it useless, to hack it away, given half a chance, and considering he had no idea how long he had been lain up there, unconscious, plenty of chance had been had. His cloak was laid over his lower half as a blanket, so he gingerly pulled it away, heaving a grateful sigh at finding both legs still attached, the right one, black and blue from hip to toe as far as he could tell, bound much the same way as his arm, primitively. Aside from bandages and poultices and the sweat that poured out of him, he was completely naked, so he tugged the cloak over himself and lay his head back in the pile of smelly furs, made his sickbed.

“I know you’re there,” he said, his voice harsh and dry, looking up at the shadows stretched across the ceiling. One of them, the one that looked most like a mastodon, took a step toward him, but the other laid an alien hand on its trunk, stopping it short. Noel could feel the silent exchange going on somewhere out of view. These people, whoever they were, did not want to interact with him. “I just need my rucksack. Please,” he implored, catching his breath against the stabbing in his ribs. “And perhaps my clothes?”

The mastodon lumbered toward him, surprisingly delicate feet attached to gargantuan legs shuffling across the hard earth, the shadow shrinking, becoming more human with each step, until a young, dark-skinned man wearing several pelts, knelt down beside him, leaning his bald, tattooed head over him, peering at him with eyes framed by old-fashioned wire rims. “My rucksack?” Noel said, doubting there was much chance the man spoke English.

Scowling curiously, the man reached for something above Noel’s head, but when Noel heard the sound of water sloshing and dripping back into a vessel, he knew this stranger did not understand. The man smiled as he held a wet cloth above Noel’s mouth, nodding for him to open and take a drink.  Gratefully, he accepted, closing his eyes as the water spilled into his mouth. A moment later, the man began gently running the cool cloth over his brow, under his chin, across his shoulders, wiping the sweat from him, but as he began to pull back one of the leaves to check his wounds, Noel took his hand, shaking his head. “You’re wasting your time. I need my rucksack… My er… Bag? Carryall? Duffle? Christ. Where the hell is Phileas and his thousand tongues when I need him?”

The man only pulled his hand away, dipping the rag into the water and wringing it out into the bowl, but before he could return to tending his patient’s wounds, Noel reached out for the cloth. “My rucksack,” He said, laying the rag out over the leaves on his chest, picking each of the four corners up in his fingers, so that it resembled a pouch. He lay the cloth down again and motioned putting imaginary things in the bag before taking it up, slinging it over his shoulder. “Rucksack. My rucksack.”

 

The stranger looked over to the slender alien still casting a willowy shadow that crawled up the cave walls and across the ceiling, standing carefully out of view. His companion sighed, extending an arm, pointing to something on the ground, and the man nodded, got up from Noel’s side and became a mammoth once more. He watched as the shadow crossed the cave then stooped down, and soon he could hear his things being stuffed, slapdash, into his bag. His belongings had been searched. He couldn’t say he wouldn’t have done the same thing, in their position, but he might have had the courtesy to put things back where he found them before he woke.

“Rucksack,” Noel smiled, his face throbbing as the man returned, setting his pack down beside him, but as he tried to sit up once more, the stranger pressed him into the woolly hides by the shoulder, shaking his head. “I assure you, I’m grateful for your antiquated pomaces and leaves, but if I could just have the vial of Iachaol from my pack, you’ll see there’s no need.”

“Anyai mihkt uer apshar. Nyet wa Ohamet,” came the man’s voice, deep, his words stirring low, as if spoken from some ancient place, untouched, unstained.

Noel was about to speak, or rather to try and find some single-handed charade to indicate a massively valuable fairy tonic that would save them all the trouble of poultices and splints, could be found somewhere in his bag, if only the man would help him sit upright, when the young woman, alien only in her simple beauty, came out of hiding, cast golden in the firelight, her footsteps impossibly silent.

She stared down at Noel with harsh black eyes as she laid a hand on the man’s head. “Er ush Harvwi,” she whispered imploringly, dark curls falling from her shoulder as she spoke, accentuating the long slope of her honeyed neck. Noel might have been taken by her, beautiful as she was, but it was clear she had no interest in him, not even an interest in helping him as she narrowed her eyes.

“Rucksack,” he said to her, pointing to the bag sitting next to the man. She made an impatient noise in answer, shaking the man’s head with her hand, as if to urge him away, causing him to laugh quietly. “Rucksack,” Noel repeated, holding out his hand.

“Ursht Ohamet ot,” the man smiled up at her.

“Baga!” she scoffed, sitting down cross-legged on the ground with a groan, taking Noel’s pack in her lap and tugging it open.

One by one, the woman removed Noel’s belongings from the bag, holding each out to him in turn, all the while wearing a disgusted look on her face that somehow made her seem all the more appealing, and seemed to bring some measure of joy to her friend, who watched, stifling his laughter, as she showed Noel tiny trousers, shrunken doss bag, the Book of Ages, his favorite lounge chair ‘borrowed’ from Murphy three years ago and never returned, all of which she tossed aside without a care, as Noel gingerly shook his head at her, knowing it wouldn’t be long before she grew tired of this game of discover what the injured man needs from his rucksack.

“Please, be careful now,” Noel sighed as she chucked his bedroom slippers aside, hitting the fragile book in its threadbare spine. It had survived the millenniums only through the great care of its keepers, none of whom had been irate women, he thought as she pulled out a miniature tea kettle and breathed in annoyance. A second later it landed with an unceremonious clang on the hard ground.

Noel wasn’t certain he could take this game much longer either and was just wishing he had some of her things to throw around in frustration when, finally, the woman held up the opalescent bottle of Iachaol by its thinly waxed stopper. “That’s it!” He shouted, causing the others to jump and him to grab at his ribs in agony. It took a bit for the pain to subside, but when he looked back, the woman was holding the elixir out to him, her mouth drawn tight.

“Thank you,” he managed to mutter as she put the vial in his hand. Her face softened slightly, almost into a smile, and she nodded her head, though it was obvious she didn’t particularly want to do that, but good breeding won out over her incessant desire to sneer at him. Getting that stubborn bird to show any sign of humanity was like trying to move a mountain… while lying on your back, half dead, No thought. He might have smiled too, but it hurt too much, and he was certain there hadn’t been much good about his breeding.

The dark fairies, on their floating islands in the South Pacific, had always been a secretive bunch. They lived in the mountain mists, shunning outsiders and avoiding contact with anyone as much as possible, though for centuries the men, who inhabited the parts of their islands that weren’t perpetually enshrouded in a veil of clouds, wove fairytales regarding their few encounters, some good, some frightening, to say the least. What men did not know about the winged creatures of the mountain mists would decidedly alter their entire view of the history of the world, give them cause to question everything they believed about the human species as a whole, and vastly, vastly improve their medicinal sciences. But the dark fairies had no qualms with dismembering a few men, women and children over the ages in order to make certain man-kind kept their distance. The only thing that stopped them from killing Phileas Foote was Liam Godfrey, who apparently was descended from some tribal princess. Noel was still amazed Phileas had managed to procure the Iachaol. He would have to thank Liam for saving Phileas’s hide the next time he saw him.

“Wa’er, pweashe,” Noel said, his teeth clenched around the stopper. “Er… I bean…” He left the bottle hanging between his teeth and pointed over his head to the bowl, then pretended to wipe his face and chest before holding an imaginary cloth over his open mouth, hoping they would get the picture.

The woman reached for the rag in its bowl as Noel gripped the bottle and pulled the cork free, with a pop that filled the cavern. The vessel seemed empty at first glance, but Phileas had told him Iachaol was so potent, it took only a single drop, mixed in an ounce of water, to heal anything, and there was just enough in that vial for one dose.

He held the bottle out, nodding to the wet cloth in the woman’s hand. She seemed to understand, because she wrung the water out over the vial’s opening, allowing it to trickle inside. Instantly, the concoction began to fizz so furiously Noel could feel it bubbling through the thick glass. An odor so foul it could kill a virile wolverine from twenty meters, spilled into the air, causing the woman to gag and cover her face with the end of her long yellow vestment.

“Cheers,” Noel growled, tipping the rim of the vial over his lips, allowing the putrid, bubbling blue liquid to fall across his tongue. This was an enormous mistake.

The range of spluttering, gurgling and hacking noises that issued forth from Noel as he tried to choke down the Iachaol have likely never before been heard outside of the Southern Isles. They certainly had never been heard by his rescuers, who immediately took to blathering in panicked tones in their incomprehensible language, which only made matters worse for Noel, who would have given anything in that moment for one of them to think to give him a drink of water, to wash the wretched taste away, and consequently would have given whatever he had left in the world after the bargain for them to shut their gobs and never utter another syllable of their gibberish again, as he was certain, despite the fairies’ panacea, he might just die right there from contorting his body around, clenching all of his muscles, and moving broken limbs in order to try to escape the god-awful taste of guaranteed life, and he didn’t want the last sound he heard on this earth to be that woman’s babbling.

_______________________

Tale of Two Mountains, Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3, Pt. 4, Pt. 5, Pt. 6, Pt. 7, Pt. 8, Pt. 9, Pt. 10, Pt. 11, Pt. 12, Pt. 13, Pt. 14, Pt. 15, Pt. 16

 

The Tale of Two Mountains- Pt.6

isaandnoel

ISABELLA

 

The storm raged with fury, whiting out the night as Isabella stood watch, shivering, not with cold, so much as with fear. The longer she waited, the more she considered turning back for help, but each time the idea of what the Mdrai would think stopped her. She couldn’t help wondering, what would their punishment be, if they were discovered? “Give him more time,” she whispered the words that had become something of a mantra during her vigil, as the wind thundered against the mountain, the minutes creeping past. Someone would surely notice their absence. How would they explain?

“Issa!” a voice called, barely cutting through the deafening wail of the tempest. Relieved and frightened, she ran across the ridge and nearly missed Harvey standing just a few feet below, snow caked to his furs, a person slung over his shoulder. “Issa, here! Help me lift him up!”

“You brought him with you?” she shouted, but she could see the impatience in his eyes, peering out at her from between the layers of his pelts, so Isabella got down on her knees as Harvey untied the rope that kept the wanderer strapped to him and gently let the man fall from his shoulder, into his arms.

“It is worse than I thought,” he said, as she saw the purple swelling of the man’s face and the bloody gashes on his chest and drew back from him. “Just take him under the arms. Hold him steady. I will lift him up to you.”

What they were doing went against every doctrine they had ever been taught by the mothers regarding their interactions with the outside word. They were never to interfere in the way of Fate, not to hinder, nor to help. She had not wanted to go out in the first place, but Harvey… Sometimes he went too far. Even as he was dragging her along by the wrist, unaware how it bruised as he squeezed, fingers digging into her, she knew if she didn’t go with him, he would go alone, and she could not allow him to do that, especially not when he looked at her so desperately, as she pulled away from him, and said, “I followed you into the river because I would follow you anywhere. I need my greatest friend now. Issa, He is going to die. I know it is wrong, but I cannot allow it to happen.”

“People die every day,” she told him. “We are not bothered by death, Harvey. Why should he be different?”

“I don’t know, but he is.”

“It was you who was just telling our Mdrai a short while ago that this elf couldn’t be allowed here, that he would change everything, and now you want to go out there to rescue him? What has changed?” she asked, even as she donned the smelly hides he shoved at her. They belonged to his father and were much too large for her, but she put them on anyway, to appease him.

“He is going to die!”

“He will live again, just like everyone else! The mothers told us—”

“No, he won’t,” Harvey answered seriously, shuddering as he said the words, then looking quickly away, shaking his head. “The traveler will not live again, Issa.”

Isabella had watched him as he tugged on his own furs, layer by layer, tying them tightly, the silence that grew up between them overflowing with a million unspoken questions with answers she was not certain she wanted to know. Everyone lived again. Everyone. “Is it Fate, Harvey?” she had asked him gently. “Fate that you and I go out there? Fate that the wanderer die? Tell me what is supposed to be, and that is what I will do.”

“I do not know what is supposed to be,” he had answered her low, “but you are coming with me, because I need you, and I am supposed to be able to depend upon you.”

Now the wind and snow crashed against her, threatening to knock her off balance as she took the battered, bloody man under the arms and hoisted him up, his head lolling limp as her knee slipped from beneath her and she fell backwards under his weight, landing with him sprawled across her legs and chest. “He is already dead,” she said as Harvey climbed up. There was no life left him, she was certain. Why had he come there so unprepared, wearing just a meager cloak for protection? Why had he come alone, in the dark of night? Why had he not sought protection when the storm came, instead of fighting it? “He was a fool, coming here like this, Harvey. Maybe the world is better off without him.”

“He is not yet gone,” Harvey grunted, lifting the man off of her, hefting him over his shoulder once again then extending a hand to help her up from the ground.

Isabella ignored the offer and got to her feet on her own, her hands on her hips as she spoke. “What do you intend to do with him?” He did not answer, but stepped around her, carrying the wanderer toward the entrance to their home. “Harvey, what do you intend to do with him?” she called after him, hurrying to catch up as he ducked down beneath the ice and disappeared.

Clamoring inside, it took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the absolute blackness of the small cave. Harvey had laid the wanderer down on the cold rock and was preparing wood for a fire. “We should leave him,” she said as she watched him working. “Someone will notice we are gone, Harvey. We have done more than enough.”

“He needs a nurturer. I will stay with him until he wakes.”

“Wakes? He is a ghost, nothing more than a memory. Look at him!”

“He is still there, Issa. Just feel him.” But she glared at him dangerously in answer. “Go on, Issa. I will envelop you so no one will know you are here.”

“Harvey,” she sighed.

“Just do it,” he answered, unwrapping the takin skins from his head, tossing them aside.

Isabella swallowed against the knot of uncertainty and dread that fiercely gripped her guts and slowly allowed the wall of protection she had built up around her to slip away. Tears came swiftly spilling down her cheeks, causing the hides to chafe her skin. The elf did not breathe, his heart did not beat, but still he was there, just as Harvey said. This wanderer’s soul inexplicably clung to himself, as if his body was a mountain, and he would climb for an eternity. Overwhelmed with unexpected grief, she hurried to his side, pulling the furs from her as she went. The orange light of the flames Harvey cast filled the small space as Isabella lifted the man’s head and tucked her woolly hood beneath it.

“What are you doing? Put those on, Issa, or you will freeze,” Harvey growled as she struggled to tuck the furs she had been wearing under the man.

“There is no way he will survive lying on the cold ground. He needs warmth. You brought me here to help you save him,” she whispered furiously. “Now, you help me.”

“Then lay the furs out closer to the fire,” he answered. “I will carry him there.”

Still crying, Isabella did as she was told, and soon the man’s body was lain out next to the fire on a pallet of billowing takin hides. She knelt down on the hard ground beside him and leaned over his broken face, hoping to feel even the smallest whisper of a breath, but there was none. Looking up at Harvey, she had no idea what they should do. “We should take him to the mothers,” he said quietly, answering her question, but that was the last thing Isabella could agree to do. The only thing she could think was that the man needed life’s breath if he was ever going to survive, so she tilted his head back, pressed her mouth against his, bloodied and swollen, and breathed her own life into him.

“What are you doing?” Harvey asked, pulling her back by the shoulder.

“Saving him, like you wanted,” she answered, tugging away, giving the traveler another breath of her own. “Come back, Wanderer!” she shouted, shaking his lifeless body as Harvey knelt down beside her.

“Give him another breath,” he said, laying his head on the man’s tattered chest. The wanderer’s blood was on his cheek as he lifted his face and smiled, “He is getting stronger. He will make it. Another breath, Issa!”

But Isabella’s mouth had not quite met the man’s when his eyes opened and he gasped, looking around in confusion, trying to crawl away backwards only to collapse, crying out in agony before he lost consciousness again. Isabella and Harvey both sat very still, watching the man’s chest rise and fall weakly. It was a long moment before Harvey, laughing, reached over and pulled her into his arms. “We just brought a man back from the dead!” he shouted. “We have to take him to the mothers now!”

“Are you insane?” she snapped, pushing him away. “Can you imagine what my own mother would do to me if she knew I was here? Not to mention my Omdra… and yours! No one can ever know what we’ve done.”

“But he needs to be tended. Look at him!”

“He needed to be left out there to die, but what is done is done. We will set his leg and clean his wounds, and then you and I will leave him here,” she insisted. “Whatever happens to him after that is his own destiny. And Harvey, you must agree to occlude him completely.”

“Issa—”

“No! I have gone against our ways, helped you bring him back from death.” She cringed at the thought of it, wiping the taste of the elf hard from her mouth, but she knew she would never forget the salt of his sweat and the metallic tinge of his blood on her lips. He breathed with her breath now, and somehow she could not help but resent him for it, as though he had taken from her without asking, even though it seemed so natural a thing to give in that moment, when she felt him fighting to live from beyond the shade. “It is time to leave this man to the will of Fate.”

“But Issa—”

“Please, do not ask anything more of me, Harvey!” she shouted. “Everything has changed! Just as you said it would!”

_______________________

Tale of Two Mountains, Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3, Pt. 4, Pt. 5, Pt. 6, Pt. 7, Pt. 8, Pt. 9, Pt. 10, Pt. 11, Pt. 12, Pt. 13, Pt. 14, Pt. 15, Pt. 16