Chapter 38 - The Goddess Within
June 9, 1645 (Six Days Later)
Fireham Castle (King James Murray’s Castle)
Island of Djinn, Virlinn
-Queen Adrienne Almira Ivaris-
A reverberating crack filled the room and I flinched and then sobbed.
How does one remember?
Should one use an item to trigger a memory from the past? Should one smell a familiar thing? Should one see a particular color? Or even experience something similar?
How does one remember?
How does one remember not a distant memory but a past life? How does one recall things that happened not years ago but an entire lifetime ago?
Remembering isn’t easy.
Six days now since Argyll captured Seth but my mind still continues to draw a blank. All I can remember are things that Selene has shown me when I was down with the plague. The other parts of my past life... I couldn’t remember.
It’s just terribly unlucky for Seth that his life depended on me remembering things and getting my powers back. But no...
Right now, I have a plan. I was just waiting for the perfect opportunity to use it.
“Stop! Please! Don’t!” I shouted as another crack filled the room. It was the sound of a whip hitting skin.
“Twenty lashes more!” came Argyll’s cruel voice.
I scanned the large hall we were on. It was made of stone like the rest of Fireham Castle. Argyll sat on his gilded throne while I sat beside him on a throne supposed to be for his queen. I was pampered with every luxury imaginable which is far from what Seth has been experiencing for the past six days.
A circle of protective magic was drawn on the floor and Seth was placed on the center of it. As long as Seth was in the circle, he was not able to use his powers.
Both of his wrists were chained and the chains were pegged to the floor. Right know, Seth was slumped in the middle of the circle with his back bared. His skin was ashen and coated with his blood. His hair was matted because of blood and sweat.
For six days, he has endured countless whippings and beatings while I was forced to watch. Argyll thought that Seth being punished will finally force me to remember... I thought so too... But it’s already been six days and nothing...
Another crack filled the room.
“Stop please! I’ll do anything!” I pleaded as tears ran down my cheeks. It was as if I felt every punch, whip and kick that has been done to my beloved King.
I can’t stand another minute of seeing Seth being tortured. Right now, he is passed out from all the pain but his humiliation is seen on the chains he wore and the bruised and wounds that flawed his perfect skin. More tears fell from my eyes as I saw him slumped like that and continuously whipped just because I cannot remember...
“Have you remembered how to open the portals and transfer the guardianship of the Fountains to me?” he asked in a sweet voice.
“N-no...” I whispered ashamedly.
Truth is, I already know how to open the portals. Ruadan spoke to my mind the last couple of days and we have been trying to devise a plan. It took us a really long time to plan a perfect one because there were too many things that could go wrong.
If something went wrong, Argyll might go berserk and kill Seth.
“Well then... You still can’t remember so you cannot help him.” Argyll taunted. He turned towards me with a huge grin on his face and then addressed the man holding the whip.
“More!” he shouted and the crack of the whip reverberated across the room once again.
I bent my body and placed my head in my hands so that I wouldn’t be forced to endure Seth being brought low any moment more. But I still heard the sounds of the whipping and my heart broke little by little...
I heard the soft rustle of silk and raised my head. Argyll rose from his throne and made his way towards Seth. I caught a flash of silver as Argyll retrieved the Silver Dagger from its sheath and tossed it into the air like a juggler would.
The crowd ooh-ed and ahh-ed at his tricks while it made me tremble with fear. It was clear from his expression that he was planning something.
“I don’t think this is working.” Argyll said with a sad shake of his head.
“What?” I asked.
“For six days, I’ve tortured your beloved. And need I remind you that I only gave you a week? Your time’s almost up yet you still haven’t given me the results I’ve wanted.” He said.
“No! I still have one more day!”
“I don’t think you’re listening to me, little queen. For six days, I’ve done every torture I could to make you break. And nothing! I think I should just end the life of this fool right here, right now. It would secure me as King and it would put him out of his misery, no?” Argyll sneered.
“N-no! Please!” I begged. It was as if he had me whipped with the lash at the pain those words caused. Argyll was still smiling as he circled Seth’s unconscious form.
“No? I don’t think so. But who said I cannot have a bit of fun before I finish off the legendary King of Ilyia?” a hollow laugh filled the room after he said those words.
He grasped the dagger using the tip of the blade and then flipped it high into the air. He caught it neatly at the handle and did a sort of move that made the bloodthirsty crowd gasp. He turned that indigo gaze towards me and triumph flared in his eyes.
“Do you remember that fateful day at Azrael’s castle? Aiken was chained just like this. Wait. No. Come to think of it, it wasn’t like this. Heavy chains could not hold him in Ilyia so Azrael used a sort of enchantment. And it looked just like this.” Argyll said.
He closed his eyes and whispered some words under his breath. I felt the flare of dark magic from him and then it went towards Seth. His body was forced off the ground at the moment enchantments bound him and the magic in him.
It was as if a heavy chain was wrapped around his entire body instead of it only encompassing his wrists.
“No!” I shouted but Argyll only laughed. I hate seeing Seth like this. He was a King! A God! And he was forcibly beaten and humiliated in front of everyone. The sight of him like that felt like a thousand daggers being thrust straight into my heart.
“Yes. It looked just like that. He was beaten then too... The only difference now was that he was awake.” He continued and then stepped inside the circle and aimed a sharp kick to Seth’s ribs. I heard a crunch and a scream burst forth from my lips when I realized that Argyll must’ve broken more of Seth’s bones.
“Stop... P-please...” I sobbed and threw myself down from the throne to kneel before Argyll. I was no queen. I wasn’t even a slave right now. All I am is a woman, pleading for mercy for her husband...
“I love the sight of that.” He said to the crowd of Virlinn nobles and they all laughed.
“I should really continue with the story.” Argyll said with a dramatic sweep of his hand. He gripped my shoulders and forced me to stand up.
“The scene truly was like this. But first, I must start right from the beginning. I came to the Golden Palace and brought you news about your husband’s capture. And without thinking, you immediately rushed to his rescue.” He snarled.
More tears fell from my eyes. No... Please no... I can’t do this again. I’ve already seen this heart breaking scene once and I cannot do it again... I can’t bear more pain...
I turned my head away but Argyll forced me to look at him by cupping my jaw very painfully and turning it towards him.
“You. Will. Listen. To. Every. Word. Of. This, Selene.” He spat every word out like a curse. Then his tone lightened and he continued.
“And then long story short, you and Azrael had a fight. He confessed his undying love for you and him doing everything because of you. And he offered you a place as his queen. But you rejected it all...”
I felt a small energy inside me... It was like fire and it seemed to flood my veins and made every cell inside of me burn up...
His other hand trailed lower and touched my abdomen. “And then he found out about your child and he killed it.”
I fell to the ground because my knees buckled at his words. I don’t want to remember this... Stop... Please... The pain engulfed me again as if it all just happened yesterday. Images rushed through my mind about the event and so did a fresh wave of pain. More images flooded my mind and it became too much that my head started to throb.
“No more!” I shouted. I raised my hands to my head to cover my ears and then I slowly rocked my body back and forth on the cold stone floor.
But Argyll didn’t relent. His voice became louder as he recounted the next events to the story. “And then you sacrificed yourself and took Azrael with you!” he bellowed. “Have I thanked you for that? Huh, Selene? Did you know I planned to kill him? And you did it for me! Thank you so much!” he shouted and the nobles burst into applause.
I flinched and tried harder to cover my ears and drown out his voice with my sobs. But when I closed my eyes, I saw everything again. It was like seeing an array of pictures flash through my mind. He walked towards Seth and I was forced to watch as he waved the Silver Dagger once more.
“When you died, Ilyia was cast in darkness. Did you know that? Aiken poured out his grief over your prone body. And he grieved so much that the sun lost its light that day. He was so deep in his grief he did not even see me approach because he carried your broken body in his arms...” his voice now held sadness in it. There was excitement in the crowd’s eyes as he told the story.
“Stop it!” I shrieked. The fire in me burned hotter and it was as if something inside of me struggled to be free. More images flashed through my mind but they made no sense! I opened my eyes and the images vanished only to be replaced with voices. It was as if a hundred people were talking at the same time!
The buzz of their voices filled my head yet I cannot understand a single word. My head hurt more and I tried to cover my ears but it did no good. It did not drown out the voices. It did not make the images go away.
Argyll’s eyes flashed with triumph. “It was like this, Selene. Wasn’t it?” He raised his hand and muttered some more words. Seth’s body rose from the floor and made him hover up a couple of inches from the floor.
“He was standing like this... And I crept up behind him...” As he said the words, Argyll enacted them. He slowly crept up behind Seth’s floating body and placed his hand on top of Seth’s shoulder as if comforting him.
“I placed my hand to comfort him just like this... He almost broke when your essence was taken by the Cosmos...”
And then slowly, he raised the dagger.
Suddenly, something snapped inside of me and it was as if I saw everything in slow motion...
The barrage of pictures inside my mind slowed and the voices dimmed until only one of them stood out...
Aiken’s face and Aiken’s voice...
“What are you looking at?” a lazy voice drawled.
“The stars.” I replied. I craned my neck upwards and looked at the stars once more. I felt a hand near my shoulder and it forced me down on the ground.
“You’ll watch it better when you’re lying down like this.” He said and he tucked me closer to his warm body. He took the blanket and wrapped it around my naked form. It was followed by his arms as he hugged me closer to his body.
“Mmm...” he purred.
Tonight was our wedding night. The first night we made love in my favourite place... We were in the meadow and under the canopy of the night sky...
I laughed as he nuzzled the area where my neck and shoulder met. Then he turned towards me and I saw his dazzling smile. My breath caught as I stared at him. I lifted my hand and stroked his cheek. He took it and kissed my palm.
Truly, nothing can be more perfect than this moment.
“Have I told you I love you today?” I asked breathlessly. He chuckled and the beautiful sound lightened my heart. “A thousand times over, li’eras...” came his reply.
He lay on his back once more and we looked at the stars together. “What fascinates you so much about those?” he asked.
“They’re just so beautiful... And did you know that my father always called me his brightest star?” I said with a laugh. I took his hand and held it tight. “My father told me that those who played a very important role when they were alive are taken by the Cosmos and then flung into the heavens where their light would shine forever...”
“Do you believe in that?” Aiken asked.
“Yes... I do... And that’s why I find them beautiful... I often wonder what they did in their lives to deserve a place above the heavens where the light of their pure hearts will shine forever...”
Aiken laughed. “Selene... All my life, I’ve seen battles. I’ve fought until blood covered my entire body and I always longed for the battle haze to take hold of me. This is my purpose and this is what I’ve known... But... Being with you is like a breath of fresh air. You make me feel things I’ve never known before... You’ve turned my world upside down. Now, there’s something else I look forward to rather than battle. For the first time in my life, I look forward to the end of the war. I look forward to coming home to you..."
Tears pooled my eyes at his words. I can’t find the proper words to answer him. My mind drew a blank. I wanted to express my love for him but I wasn’t as good with him with words...
So I did the next best thing: I leaned down and kissed him. I kissed him with all the love I have for him and all the passion inside of me. I showed him how much he means to me and how happy I am that we’re now bonded together.
"Tonight is the first night of our eternity, Selene... The first of many nights we shall spend together. No one can ever take you away from me...” Aiken declared in a tender voice...
That was no vision. It was a memory. A memory of my past life that I recalled in vivid color. For the first time in this new life that has been given to me, I saw Aiken through a memory. Not through a vision and not because Selene showed it to me.
The fire inside me burned hotter and hotter until it felt as though every cell inside of me was engulfed with flames. At the same time, more images flooded my mind but they were now clearer. My head throbbed at all the images, memories and knowledge that was suddenly unlocked.
Now, I was able to recognize the fire in my blood. It was the magic inside of me, struggling to come out. It was the goddess within me and she has been awakened.
I opened my eyes and saw things more clearly this time. My eyesight was sharper and I saw everything in vivid detail. My hearing was also improved as my magic changed every inch of me. I heard every breath, every gasp and cough from the nobles gathered to witness Seth’s humiliation.
“Ruadan...” I called out.
“Mistress. You’re back!” he exclaimed.
“Yes. I am.”
“Cancel the plan. I have a new one. Be ready to open the portal to Ilyia.” I told him.
“But it will also give Argyll the chance to go back, mistress.” Was Ruadan’s his worried reply.
“Let him. We’ll be ready for him. We’ll fight him in the Land of the Gods and he shall pay for all his sins.”
I am not the naive queen this time. In this life, I was born as a princess but I have also suffered. I was not the pampered and spoiled princess anymore. I can fight for myself this time.
And that is what I’ll do. I’ll fight for me and Seth. This time around, no one will ever be able to separate us. Just like what Aiken said, our eternity started a lifetime ago. It did not end. It was only placed on hold.
And now we were given the chance to start anew and continue our eternity. No one will take it away from us again...
Time was still running more slowly this time. I looked at Argyll and he was slowly raising the Silver Dagger. He stilled when he saw me. I also heard a collective gasp from the crowd when I stood up and let go of the restraints that held my magic inside of me.
I am Selene, Queen of Ilyia, Guardian of the Fountains and the Portals. I am also Adrienne, Queen of Amaranth and Ivaris...
My power radiated around the room. Hundreds of eyes watched me walk towards Argyll who now cowered behind Seth’s body to use it as a shield. I raised my hand before Argyll could utter spells and enchantments. I channelled all my energy into my palm and released it. It hit Argyll in his chest and he flew backwards and his body hit the stone wall.
But not before he was able to graze Seth’s shoulder with the Silver Dagger.
“The King! Guards, seize her!” one moron shouted from the crowd. Guards shuffled on their feet and came towards me.
Wrong move... Because of that, I remembered how they watched and laughed as Seth was humiliated. I remembered how they screamed ideas on how to torture him more. I remembered how they gloated over the fact that Ivaris and Amaranth now belongs to Virlinn.
Fire coursed through my veins once more and light and warmth flooded the room. The guards and the nobles felt the change in the air and they all rose and started heading for the exits.
“Where are you going? Show’s not over yet.” I growled.
I channelled more power into my body and prepared to release it.
My father did not call me his brightest star for no reason at all.
I inhaled deeply and then exhaled and let go of all the anger inside of me. Blue flame rushed from me and encompassed the room. By this time, screams filled the room but instead of bringing me sadness, it brought me joy. They laughed at my husband before and now it is I who laugh at them.
I have withheld the vengeful side of me for a long time but now it is very refreshing to let it out on mortals who deserved it the most. I am not a meek queen anymore. I will fight now. I will fight whoever tries to take Seth or Ilyia away from me again.
The flames died down until only charred remains were left on the ground. The scent of burnt flesh permeated the air. Instead of making my stomach revolt, it smelt like the best dish: Vengeance served flaming hot.
“You think you’ve won, Selene? I have injured Aiken with the dagger! His essence will slowly seep out of him!” Argyll screamed in triumph. He slowly stood up from the wall and I saw that his left arm was broken from the impact.
“I know what will heal him.” I replied. I touched the ground and burned away the circle that trapped Seth’s power. I did not know how to undo the spell so I just burned every inch of the floor. I felt Seth’s power in the air once more and I realized that it worked. I directed my hands towards the chains that held him and touched it until the chain melted into a pool of metal on the burnt floor.
The enchantments that made his body float were gone and he slumped towards me. I caught him in my arms and something within me soared at the feeling of touching him again. I hugged him close to my body and held him tight.
“Yes! Only returning him to Ilyia will heal him and nothing else! Lai’s temple, right? But to do that... You’ll have to open the portals... And I shall be waiting... And I shall return to Ilyia.” Argyll snarled.
“When you return, we shall be ready for you... And when the time comes, you’ll have the war you cheated my husband of the moment you stabbed him on the back like a true coward!” I shouted in challenge.
Argyll looked at me with that gleam of triumph in his eyes again.
“You think you’d win?” he taunted.
“I don’t think we’d win. I know it.” I said.
With those parting words, I gathered my power once more and held onto Seth more tightly for he was still unconscious. I thought of Ilyia and focused on that thought as more and more power gathered around me.
I looked at Seth and smiled softly. It’s a good thing he’s unconscious for I remembered that he really hated how I travelled.
With one last burst of power, I jumped up and the fire gathered around me and transformed me into a ball of fire. I felt the air whip past me as I flew towards the heavens. Usually, I was mistaken for a falling star whenever I flew down from Ilyia... Now, as I flew upwards, I wondered... What could the mortals be thinking if they saw me?
I smiled once more.
“Ruadan! Open the gateway and then seal it again as soon as we’re through!” I commanded.
“I obey, mistress!” Ruadan answered. I channelled more power which resulted in a sudden burst of speed. I felt the gateway open and then felt it when we passed the veil between the mortal world and the Land of the Gods. The air changed and there was more magic here. The magic was so dense that it felt as though you could breathe it in... It was a familiar feeling... But one that I haven’t felt for thousands of years...
I flew over a familiar landscape. But it was changed. The trees and plants I loved so much were dead. The beautiful horizon was nowhere to be seen for everything was pitch black as if it was suspended in eternal night time. Everything looked bleak and a blanket of decay hung over everything.
Finally, we were in Ilyia...We were home once more...
I flew faster and headed towards Lai, the Goddess of Healing’s, temple. Like the other temples, it was in a state of decay. The beautiful golden and marble pillars were now covered with vines. A thick layer of dust also blanketed everything.
“We’re almost there...” I whispered to Seth as I felt his essence slowly leaking out of the wound made by the Silver Dagger.
I channelled more of my energy into flying and we reached the temple quickly. I started the descent but I moved too fast. When I touched down on the ground, it exploded and dirt and grass flew everywhere. When I stood up, I saw that a crater has been embedded in front of the temple.
I winced but there was nothing that could be done... I must save Seth first...
He was still unconscious so I had to drag his battered and bleeding body towards the temple steps. I laid him down and entered the temple, seeking the Fountain that contained the Goddess’ Healing Waters.
I sighed with relief when I found that it had not been destroyed. There was a soft gurgling sound as the waters flowed from a spring and into the fountain. I took one of the small cups beside the fountain and wiped it with the hem of my gown. Then, I scooped down the Healing Water and brought it out to Seth.
I poured it first on the wound made by the Silver Dagger and I saw the wound slowly close. My knees almost sagged at the sight. I half-believed that it would not work but I was extremely happy that it did.
I went back to the fountain and scooped more water. I used the water to bathe the cuts and bruises all over Seth’s body. Within minutes, they all healed. The flayed skin on his back also healed and there was no scar to mar his perfect body. No scar to remind me that he endured hundreds of whips for me.
I took one last trip to the fountain. All that’s left is for him to wake up...
I returned to Seth and lifted the upper half of his body and placed it on my lap. I lifted his head and pried his lips open. I dropped a small amount of the Healing Water on his mouth. Blessed relief filled me when I saw his tongue dart out to lick the water. I lifted his head again and placed the cup to his lips.
He drank eagerly. In a few moments, I saw his parched lips and dry tongue become moist again.
“Wake up, my King...” I whispered to him and kissed his forehead.
And then something amazing happened. I looked at the horizon and watched as streaks of red and orange chase away the darkness.
“Oh, Seth...” I whispered as I caressed his face. Tears pooled from my eyes and fell down my cheeks. I watched the horizon once more as more streaks appeared. And then, slowly... I watched as the sun rose from the sea...
Dawn broke in Ilyia after thousands of years of being cast in darkness... Light chased away the gloom and the decay and we were bathed with the soft light of the rising sun.
“Wake up, li’eras...” I told my beloved husband in my arms. Slowly, like the rising sun, his eyelids lifted and his golden irises was opened to my gaze. “Adrienne...” he whispered and lifted his hand to cup my cheek.
I kissed it and helped him up.
“We’re home, li’eras... We’re back in Ilyia...” I told him. His eyes flared with emotion as he watched the sun slowly rising on the horizon.
“We are home...” Seth agreed and pulled me back into his arms. He held my hand as we watched the sun...
The True King of Ilyia is back and with him, the sun rose again. Darkness was chased away and truly... It was a new beginning for all of us...
But things were not over yet...