The Tale of Two Mountains–Pt 34

Fragments of Divinity

The Mardraim had no idea what it was like to sit and wait, feigning patience when patience was impossible, Issa thought, tying her dark mane back with a string, at the base of her neck, to keep it out of the way while she worked. She tapped her fingers against the table, straightened the papers before her once more, then got up to look out the window. The elder had only been away a few minutes. It would surely be several more before he returned, but she was filled with anxiety. She had prepared the materials she needed to recreate what she saw. There was nothing left to do but wait for the elf to do his part. The Mardraim could not know what it felt like, though, this all-consuming need for fulfillment.

No, indeed, the Mardraim could no longer sense her without serious effort. No one could sense her any longer, as most of her soul had been lost to Moag, but now was not the time to think of such things. She had to concentrate on the matter at hand. The prophecy would come—it had to. If this worked, revealing Moag’s way, all the changes brought about by Ohamet, would be the purpose she served from this day forward—a true purpose only she could serve. And if it did not work?

She let out a great puff of air, and tried to focus on the path where the Mardraim would return, forcing her eyes to see further into the night. Noel Loveridge was once again hidden in the place where her sense of him diminished into nothing. Her mind felt smaller in these times of disconnection, but at least her thoughts were her own, not bound up in chaos, as they were throughout the day, while the elf went about his business and she suffered torrents from him and Moag in turns. Having had a handful of days to grow accustomed to herself in this state, she could feel exactly how little was left of her. It was difficult for her not to pity the lowliness of her own soul at times, but she had the beginnings of a plan to remedy that, she thought—it merely had to wait while she recorded the next prophecy… if this worked.

The Mardraim would not share much information, on how the wanderer managed to connect with Moag and draw out the prophecy, how the elf touched the very source of the unfolding event and enabled her to see the Drowning of Multitudes in its completion. He would not tell her where the elf went or what fahmat he used to break the tie of possession between them when he disappeared. The elder would not tell her much of anything, but she was hardly alone in that, as she could sense Noel Loveridge had the same frustrations where the elder was concerned. That and having seen the light of her soul with the wanderer before had set her to searching for answers of her own. After all, no one could sense her anymore, except maybe Noel.

The evening was still and cooler than the previous. She would have made it farther into the tunnels this time, she thought, regretting that she had to wait for at least a handful of days, before she could slip out into the night again. But the prophecies of Moag were more important than that, she reminded herself, and recording them was imperative, as Om would never be able to show the Zhe the future Ohamet made. Who could say how long it would take her to record what the elf brought forth this time, if he managed it? She only hoped she would not forget all of the progress she made in the meantime.

Moving from connection to disconnection and back again twice a day was a curious, disorienting, and often disheartening experience. The disconnection allowed Issa a level of freewill she could not experience under Moag’s influence, when her mind was never stable, constantly churning over half-told truths. For that she was truly grateful. And of course, in the afternoons, when the elf went into the tunnels and disappeared, Harvey would come to visit her, and while Issa could no longer sense what her friend was feeling, given her predicament, she could tell by the way he acted that the improvement in her demeanor was appreciated. This was precious respite, spending time with her friend, while her mind was her own and not being drowned out by the vague but constant influx of Moag’s prophecies and Noel Loveridge’s meanderings. But she was only allowed a few hours each afternoon, time meant for her to spend with others, pretending she was herself again, even though she was not, knowing it would eventually end, and she would return to the chaos. Though it was hardly enough time to properly enjoy, she had managed to keep herself groomed, to allow the wounds she had given herself in worse times to heal, and to maintain a certain level of consistency in her thoughts from disconnection to disconnection. She supposed she should content with that, but it was hardly enough. Each time the elf returned, she fell right back into their connection and the confusion it inspired.

The letter she wrote to herself, nights ago, had helped keep her at least slightly more focused on a task whenever Ohamet returned. Even when her mind was flooded with Moag, she knew she must try to memorize the elf’s path through the tunnels, scrutinizing his every turn. She could feel in him that the way was dangerous, that Moag constantly surrounded him, but she had no other choice than to try to figure out where he was going, no matter how futile it seemed. She needed to discover exactly where he disappeared, so she could go there herself and confront him. She could not say what would happen, if she ever made it there, but she had seen the aura of her own soul with the elf, when he came to her after touching Moag. She did not yet know how, or even if it was possible, but she intended to regain that piece of herself the wanderer kept bound to him. She would regain it at all costs, or die trying.

The fact no one else could sense her was actually one of the few benefits to their disconnection. For the past two evenings, while the elf was off in hiding again, while she was meant to be sleeping, Issa had ventured out on her own, into the desolate tunnels, carefully following Noel’s path. She had not made it very far, but she planned to go tonight as well, until the Mardraim came to inform her that it was time for the wanderer to once more engage with Moag—time for Issa to see.

She nodded silently to herself, smiling. Now her real work would begin. The prophecy would come. She would see. There would be time for discovering exactly what the elf was doing later. At last, she would serve her people again—she hoped.

As if called to her on a thread of that hope, the wanderer returned, all at once dropping his protections, as a pressure from without and within bombarded Issa, in expectant waves that took her breath away. Moag and the prophecies swelled inside her, threatening her grip on the now, as Noel ran through the darkness. Moag surrounded him, seemingly everywhere at once, but he always went the same way, to a place that was formidable, toward a force that was insurmountable, his desire increasing with the quickening of his steps.

Isabella’s own desire grew as well. This had to work. She had to see again.

She hurried back to the table and took her place, exhilaration causing her heart to palpitate. Her thoughts flew from prophecy to prophecy, unable to capture any completely, though she knew them all in her heart, as she scribbled down what fragments she could put into words. Which would it be tonight? Which would he bring to her? She could hardly stand the flurry of sensations that coursed over and through her, disjointed, never-ending. It was as though the whole experience of humanity was attempting to exist through her single perspective at once, each existence on top of the next, interwoven in such a way that the threads of them were knotted and could hardly be traced. It was painful and gut-wrenching and beautiful, this tapestry of life the wanderer wove, so painfully, gut-wrenchingly beautiful that it was hard for Issa to fight the urge to rip at her flesh to make it stop, but she clung to the chair, trusting order would come, soon enough.

He would fulfill her.

The wanderer would show her.

“He must.”

Her body convulsed, as she held onto the edges of her seat, digging her nails into the wood, squeezing as tight as she could against the urge to run, the need to explode. This time was worse than usual. This time it felt as though Moag sensed what they would do and somehow anticipated it. The frenzy would pass, she told herself. She had to wait it out. She had to be patient. Follow his steps. But it was almost impossible to breathe against the onslaught. The Mardraim had no idea what this felt like, she thought. He had no idea of the relentless agony or the endless bliss. Tears spilled down her cheeks, but she dared not wipe them away, for fear she would lose herself to the cacophony of visions.

“…Energy of everything, the all, past, present, and future…” she whispered, the words flying swift and wet from her lips. “…Blood drenched the lands… Flames coursed… Air, black with the filth of… Essence of young ones…”

“Isabella!” the Mardraim said, rushing toward her, as her body beat against the chair back. His eyes were wide—fearful. He wrapped his arms around her, trying to still her, but it was no use. The energy that ran through her was not of this world. “It will be over soon, child,” he whispered against her ear, holding her tight to him as she seized. “It will pass. Let it pass. Let the prophecy flow through you. Do not try to stop it.”

He had no idea, she thought, somewhere between that rapid succession of futures unfolding within, the wandering changes of life, violent and limitless inside her. No idea. No one knew. How could they?

At last, she felt Noel Loveridge standing at the precipice of the abyss and the darkness stretching itself toward him in longing. He hesitated.

Oh, he hesitated! No!

“Release me,” Isabella’s voice stammered, from some other place and time.

The Mardraim let her go. He must have thought she was talking to him, but she was talking to Ohamet, who held her back from the edge with all his strength.

In the distance, the wanderer reached out his hand, even as Isabella held out her own, as though they would touch, through Moag, but as the elf’s fingertips met with the impenetrable deep, agony breached Isabella’s soul and heart and mind and flesh and bone, and she thought she would cry out against it, yet as quickly as she opened her mouth, to allow the scream the freedom of her voice, relief washed over her.

In that relief, she opened her eyes and saw the horrible, perfect, mesmerizing truth, glorious, vicious, and human.

As the tension that constricted every muscle in her body fell loose, she went momentarily limp against the reality that surrounded her.

“What did you see?” the Mardraim whispered, panicked at her side, lifting her weakened body back into the chair.

She tried to speak, but her breath caught up her words. All of the other prophecies fell away, and this single truth, what would become of the world because of Noel Loveridge, affixed itself in her mind’s eye. “It was…” she panted, exhausted, though the encounter had lasted no more than a second. “They were…” A burning bile rose into her chest, but she swallowed it down. She tried to continue, to allow vision the use of her words, her breath, but before she could, she felt the elf speeding toward her once again.

“He comes,” she said, stumbling to her feet, catching herself on the edge of the table. “The wanderer comes, now, as before.”

Frantic, the Mardraim looked back at the still open door. Issa started away, struggling to put feet beneath herself, to go confront Noel, but the elder caught her arm. “You must stay here, young one. You cannot see him!”

“I must!” The Mardraim did not understand. It was not the wanderer she wished to see, but herself. Because she was not focused on the prophecy, her mind raced from dizzying thought to dizzying thought, but every other breath, she checked the prophecy remained strong and true within her. She had to go see the piece of her soul, bound to Noel Loveridge. She had to figure out how to get it back. “My Mardraim…” she whimpered, twisting her wrist against the strength of his hand, knowing he had no idea.

“No,” the elder said sternly, looking more fearful than she had ever seen anyone. “Young Isabella, you must stay here! I will go tell him you are well. He is merely frightened, as before. Please… Heed my warning, child. Do not go to him. Ever.”

Lost but obedient, Isabella nodded, but she felt her brow knit together as the wanderer landed outside, his panic racing through her, even as it raced through him. The Mardraim ran for the door, hurrying outside, his hands raised before him. “You must go, Young Noel,” she heard him implore, as she crept to the window to peek through the shutters, trying desperately to maintain her hold of the prophecy and the need to see the piece of her soul once more, amid an onslaught of half-formed waves from Moag, battering against her, threatening to drown her if she did not focus.

The Mardraim stood a few steps off the porch, his arms wide above his head in warning.

No one else was there—no, not no one. Noel Loveridge was there, in fact, stood right before the elder, though again he was invisible. She could feel him, full of trepidation, fear for her.

But she was not there—the piece of her soul. Why? What had happened to her? Why could she not see the dim glow of herself as before?

“Edward, I need know,” Noel said, his voice trembling, his use of the High Elvish awkward and forced. “Edward, Issa feel such pain!”

Isabella gasped, not because the wanderer spoke her name, as Harvey would, as the Mardraim himself might, with the affection of friendship and responsibility. No, she ran trembling hands over her neck and chest, then held her own arms tight, as if somehow this might reassure her of Noel Loveridge’s mistake, against the eerie sensation that he was right—she was in pain, or had been. Could this be true? Had he felt her? Had the elf somehow felt her pain through the darkness? Yes, she had no doubt of it! She could feel this within him, even as the Mardraim spoke, yet she was not in pain now. The pain had gone almost as soon as it started.

“She is well. You must take my word,” the elder answered, quiet but terse. He pointed up the path with two outstretched fingers, his old hand trembling. “Go, now, Ohamet. You cannot be here. You cannot see her. You must not see the prophecy.”

The prophecy, Isabella thought. Was that why the elf came? No. He was terrified for her, of that much she was certain.

“I know,” the man implored, his voice full of angst. “She hurt. She hurt, Edward! She hurt!”

How did he feel this? He was just an elf.

Issa hurried to the door. “Let him come see for himself,” she said, holding it wide.

“Issa, he must not—”

“I said let him come,” she demanded.

“The prophecy…” the Mardraim whispered, shaking his head, his kindly eyes grave with trouble.

“It is within whole me,” she answered. “I cannot forget while we are connected, and I will not give this to him, as you asked. Ohamet does not deserve to know the truth of what he has done.”

The Mardraim sighed, and let his hands fall to his sides. As the elder turned in defeat, Issa felt the wanderer hurry past him toward her, and she took an anxious step back. There was an energy between them that was unnatural, as if to come too close to him in that moment might cause the entire earth to the shatter. The closer he came, the more she sensed of him, the more they stretched some boundary of existence, like together they violated an unwritten universal law. He was on the steps and hurrying inside, before Issa could formulate a complete thought against the fluttering of her heart. Somehow he had felt her through their connection, though he was just an elf. He had truly felt her… or at least some part of her.

“What fahmat is this?” she asked, as the Mardraim entered as well, motioning for Isabella to sit at the table and shutting the door to the outside world, still shaking his head, his jaw set in disapproval. He wrung his hands, he was so concerned about the two of them being together. Why? Should they be afraid?

“Noel Loveridge is using a forbidden way of the Llendir,” the elder said. “Young Noel, your light well, if you please…”

“I am sorry. I… intrude,” Noel muttered uncertainly.

A light flashed bright before Issa’s eyes, and the elf appeared with the wave of his hand, as if he threw aside an invisible curtain. It was no wonder this magic was forbidden. If Issa had not been able to discern his presence through their connection, it would have been impossible for her to know that Noel Loveridge was present. Clearly, this light well did not work to shield one from empathy, or the Mardraim would not have been able to detect the elf, but if this fahmat and occlusion were used in conjunction, the user would be undetectable. Yet she had seen the piece of her soul with Ohamet before.

Now he was here, where was the light of her soul? What had he done with her? Did he have some other means of concealing her?

Noel ran his hands over his face, then back through his hair. He could hardly stand still, he was so nervous. He watched Issa with a pained look in his eyes, as though what he saw of her and what he felt were two different things. They were kind eyes, caring she thought, looking away in disgust with herself for seeing anything good within him. He seemed at once grateful for the state in which he found her and yet as confused as she, herself, felt that he found her this way, as it did not match the intense suffering he clung to within himself—a suffering that was definitely attributed by him to her. The soul of him searched outside of himself for reassurance, to make some sense of what he felt. He felt much like a lost empath, struggling to understand what part of him was his own and what belonged to everyone else.

Issa could feel herself there in him.

Why could she not see herself with him as before?

The prophecy was still within her.

Her mind was battered by the waves of half-formed prophecies fighting to become clear.

He felt her pain. Yet this was not her pain.

“You…” He looked between Isabella and the Mardraim, as she took a hard seat in the chair farthest from this stranger, startled.

Was it possible?

It was too much for anyone to know.

She longed to tear at her flesh.

The prophecy was fixed within her.

If it was possible, how?

Her sitting seemed to confuse him even further, and he looked around her home, at the sparse furnishings, at the canvases and papers scattered about, ready to receive her work, as though he wished to run. “I intrude.” He smiled, a grievous smile, a smile that reached deep inside of her—a smile meant for her alone.

“No, stay,” Issa said, as he started for the door. She looked quickly away, ashamed of herself. How was it possible?

Noel stopped short, anguish filling his eyes, clearly uncertain what he should do, but Isabella was just as uncertain.

It was not possible.

“We must record the prophecy, young one,” the Mardraim said quietly, after a moment, placing himself between the two, motioning Noel to the door. “He cannot be here. You have seen for yourself, she is unharmed, Ohamet. Go now, to your own work, so that we may do ours, for Om’s sake—for Hope’s sake.”

Noel took another step toward the door, and Issa stood, her chair scraping across the floor, causing him to stop again. He looked at her with such warmth, such cherished concern. No one knew such feelings in the entirety of the mountain, she thought, breathing against the rush of urgency the elf provided. What he felt of her, for her… No one, not even an empath— not even Harvey— could feel so much.

Noel nodded, and in that moment, Issa felt his hand in hers, as everything within her grew still. She looked down at her own fingers, where the energy of him mingled, warm, caught up in the heat of her, yet not, violating that unwritten law. He smiled, somber, resolute, and without another word, he left, slamming the door behind him.

Isabella had never felt anything like it, like him, like his complete… In truth, she did not possess a word to describe what this part of the wanderer’s soul was. For quite some time she stood staring down at her fingers, dumbfounded by what she felt in Ohamet, Noel Loveridge, a simple elf, not at all possessed of some impressive power… for herself. It was not merely compassion born of connection. It was not merely fear. It was something far greater, as though it did not matter if he lost himself to it. This feeling was even greater than the desperation that drove him to their mountain in the first place. It was infinite. How could anyone feel so much for another?

“Young Isabella,” the Mardraim said quietly, stirring her back to reality. He stood before her, concern in his eyes, on his breath. “The prophecy…”

She nodded, and quite as suddenly as it had arisen in her, the sensation of Noel Loveridge within her was gone, and all that mattered was the prophecy of The Fragments of Divinity.

“The fire,” she said, her words steady and true. She gritted her teeth, speaking through them. “It rained poison from the sky for days, but fear of the disaster took more lives than the disaster itself. The Cho do not understand the power they have unleashed in the world or the years of repercussions, both good and bad, that all will suffer for their failure to contain it. I will show you what they have done, my Mardraim.”

Issa took up pencil and began to draw, her hand gliding in rapid strokes across the paper before her, even as she retook her seat.

The Mardraim sat as well, to look on as Isabella Asan fulfilled her bond to Moag.

____________________________________________

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, Pt. 17, Pt. 18, Pt. 19, Pt. 20, Pt. 21, Pt. 22, Pt. 23, Pt . 24, Pt. 25, Pt. 26, Pt. 27, Pt. 28, Pt. 29, Pt. 30, Pt. 31, Pt. 32, Pt. 33, Pt.34

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