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, then got up to look out the window. The elder had only been away a few minutes, and it would surely be several more before he returned, but she was filled with anxiety at the prospect of what was to come. She had prepared her drawing papers, paints, and canvases. There was nothing left to do but wait, yet it seemed she had already waited a lifetime. He could not know what it felt like, this all-consuming need for fulfillment.
No, he could no longer sense her without serious effort, she reminded herself. No one could sense her anymore, as most of her soul had been lost to Moag, but none of that mattered now. 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 purpose only she could serve. But what 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. Since she realized exactly how little of her was left in this state, it was difficult for her not to pity her own lowliness at times, but she had the beginnings of a plan to remedy that—it merely had to wait a while, as she saw to her new duties.
The Mardraim would not share with Issa much information, on how the wanderer had managed his connection with Moag before, whether she had been correct in her assumption that the elf somehow touched the very source of these prophecies. 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. In fact, the elder would not tell her much of anything, but that had not stopped her from seeking answers of her own.
The evening was still and cooler than the previous. She would have made it farther into the tunnels this time, Issa thought, regretting that she had to wait to go out again, for at least a handful of days, but the prophecies of Moag were more important than the fates of she and the elf combined—the prophecies were 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 Noel brought forth this time, if he managed it? She only hoped she would not forget all of the progress she had made.
Moving from connection to disconnection and back again twice a day was a curious and often painful experience, which meant the routine had taken some getting used to, but it had its benefits. The disconnection allowed Issa a level of freedom she could not have imagined before, under Moag’s influence, and for that she was truly grateful. in the afternoons, when the elf went into the tunnels and disappeared, Harvey would come to visit, and while Issa could no longer sense what her friend was feeling, since her abilities had been reduced to near nothing, she could tell by the way he acted that the improvement in her demeanor was appreciated. Although she felt rather infinitesimal during her times without Noel’s presence, it 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 intermingled with Noel Loveridge’s meanderings. But she was only allowed a few hours each afternoon, and that time was meant for her to spend with others, pretending she was herself again, even though she was not. At the appointed hour, the elf returned to her, and she fell right back into their connection and the confusion it inspired. Even so, 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.
The letter she wrote to herself, nights ago, had helped keep her focused, in that respect, so that even when her mind was flooded with Moag, she knew she must concentrate on the elf’s path through the tunnels, memorizing his every turn. This was necessary, as she could feel in him that the way was dangerous, but she had no other choice. She needed to discover exactly where the elf was going when he disappeared, so she could go there herself. She had not gotten so far with her plan that she could say what would happen next, 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, but she would regain that piece of herself, which the wanderer kept bound to him. She would regain it at all costs, which was why, for the past two evenings, while the elf was off in hiding again, in order to assure her a peaceful night’s sleep, and knowing no one else could sense her, Issa had ventured out on her own, into the night, into the desolate tunnels, carefully following Noel’s path through the darkness. She had planned to go tonight as well, until the Mardraim came to inform her that it was time for the wanderer to go once more to engage with Moag—time for Issa to see.
Isabella 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 a true purpose again—she hoped.
As if called to her on the hem 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, as Noel ran through the darkness. As usual, 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 desire grew as well. This had to work. She had to see.
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. Which would it be? Which would he bring to her? She could hardly stand the flurry of sensations that coursed over and through her, disjointed, yet never-ending. It was as though the whole experience of humanity was attempting to exist through her single perspective, each 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, but she clung to the chair, trusting order would come.
He would fulfill her.
The wanderer would show her.
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. It was not like this every time they connected. No, this time it felt as though Moag sensed what they would do and somehow anticipated it as much as the two of them. The frenzy would pass, she told herself. She had to wait it out. She had to be patient. 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 through… 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 in fearful shock. 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.
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.
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 even 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, but 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.”
Startled, the Mardraim looked back at the still open door. As Issa started away, struggling to put feet beneath herself, to go confront the man, 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. Her mind raced from dizzying thought to dizzying thought, but the prophecy remained strong and true within her. She had to see the piece of her soul that was bound to Noel Loveridge. “My Mardraim…” she whimpered, twisting her wrist against the strength of his hand, knowing he had no idea.
“No,” the elder said, 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.”
Isabella nodded, but 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. “You must go, Young Noel,” she heard him implore, as she crept to the window to peek through the shutters.
The Mardraim stood a few steps off the porch, his arms wide above his head in warning. No one 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.
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 with the wanderer 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 this time the wanderer spoke in her own language, nor because he spoke her name, as Harvey would, as the mardraim himself might, as though with the affection of friendship and trust. No, she ran her 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. It 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, 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 for him.
“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 me,” she answered. “It will wait. I cannot forget while we are connected, and I will not give this to him, as you said. 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, Issa felt the wanderer hurry past him toward her, and she took an anxious step back from the door, 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 some 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?
“Noel Loveridge is using the way of the Llendir,” the elder said. “This fahmat is called a Light Well. Young Noel, 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. Issa was not well trained in elfin magic herself, but Harvey, being of greater capacity than most, had been trained in everything, and the two of them often shared with each other what they learned at the mothers’ knees as young ones. Her friend had never shared this light well though. She was certain this magic was forbidden by the Ftdonya, and it was no wonder. If Issa had not been able to discern his presence through their connection, it would have been impossible to know that Noel Loveridge was present.
He was here, but where was the light of her own soul? What had he done with 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 indeed found her this way, as it did not match the intense suffering he clung to within himself—a suffering that was definitely attributed to her. She had no idea the source of this feeling, but it was not her, exactly—at least it was not this fraction of her that existed within her own body. And it was not the part of her that was inside of him, either, as the soul of him searched outside of himself for reassurance, to make some sense of this divergence in ideas.
Issa could feel herself there in him.
“You…” He looked between Isabella and the Mardraim, as she took a hard seat in the chair farthest from this stranger she knew so well, wondering if what he felt was…
But surely that was impossible.
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. “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.
Noel stopped short, clearly uncertain what he should do, but Isabella was just as uncertain.
“We must record the prophecy, young one,” the Mardraim said quietly, placing himself between them, 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, causing him to stop again. He looked at her with such warmth, impossible 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, was simply impossible. No one, not even an empath, could feel so much for another. Noel nodded, and in that moment, Issa felt his hand in hers. She looked down at her own fingers, where the energy of him mingled, somehow warm there, caught up in the heat of her, yet not. 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. 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. How could anyone feel so much for another?
“Young Isabella,” the Mardraim said quietly, startling her back to reality. He stood before her, concern in his eyes, on his breath. “The prophecy…”
And quite as suddenly as it had arisen in her, the sensation of Noel Loveridge was gone, and all that mattered was the prophecy of The Fragments of Divinity.
“The fire,” she said, her words steady and true. “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, for their failure to contain it. I will show you what they have done to divinity. She is in the dust.”
Issa took up pencil and began to draw, her hand gliding in rapid strokes across the paper before her.
The Mardraim took his seat, 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