The Story of Gladianima (Part VIII)

“The twelfth day of winter, the 236th year Post-Priorae. I saw it today. The voice drew me out into the middle of the cold night. I was barefoot, awakened from my sleep, coerced into the darkness with no heed for my safety. I couldn’t resist the soft voice, following it as it drew me into the trees. I didn’t regain control of my body until I realized I was standing in a field, shivering.”

Thyra glanced up at Kegan, seeing him watching her carefully, his brow furrowed. She drew a slow breath before continuing.

“That’s when it appeared. It looked like a ghost, moving in through the trees. It had a long body, thin legs, and a long nose. Its tail was like that of cat, with a tuft of hair from the end. It came closer, passing through the branches without touching them. I could see the blue of its eyes as it came within arm’s reach. When it spoke, or thought, its voice was loud and clear, no longer the soft whisper.”

Thyra could feel her stomach turning in knots as she turned the page.

“I’m glad you have finally come to me, it said, stepping closer. I could feel the heat of its body and I knew I should have felt fear. But instead, my mind was warm, as if comforted by the creature’s presence. I asked, through my thoughts, why it had been calling me. That’s when it brought its face to mine, its breath hot on my skin. You are special, Doran, it said. I will give you the power to do great things.

I was confused as I stared at it. Why would I have a need to do great things? That’s when the beast lowered its head, pressing an ivory horn against my forehead. A sudden onslaught of images filled my mind, starting with a tall figure standing in a hall. I knew, without knowing, that the figure was one of the Priorae. He was a big man, bigger than even the Inerse standing around him, wielding a broad sword. And there was something about the sword, something I knew again without knowing.

It is an anima, the beast told me, answering my unasked question. It will be my gift to you, and through me, you will lead your people to a greatness never before imagined.”

Thyra felt breathless as she looked up to Kegan. “Is that the weapon?” she whispered. “The anima?”

Kegan shook his head, looking as confused as she felt. “I don’t know,” he said.

They both jumped when a knock sounded on the library door, a servant appearing. “Dinner is ready,” the man said, bowing at the waist.

Kegan nodded, dismissing the man. He turned to look back to Thyra. “Meet me here after the last candle,” he said quietly. “We need to know more about this anima.”

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The Story of Gladianima ( Part VII)

The tenth day of winter, the 236th year Post-Priorae.

“There’s someone else here with me. I can’t see him-her-it?-But I can hear the voice. It’s like the whisper of wind across the surface of our pond. I think I should be afraid. I shouldn’t be so lax about this. The voice tells me not to be afraid. It says it has plans; I don’t know if I should trust it. It comes to me mostly when I sleep, when my mind is at it’s most vulnerable.

I have taken ill the last several days. I cannot bring myself to leave my room, and my body won’t take food. I keep the curtains pulled. The darkness helps me to know what is my own thoughts and what is this…thing that has invaded me. But something is coming. Some burning warmth stirring in my chest, and I fear that it will continue to grow until I can’t take it anymore.”

Thyra glanced up from Doran’s journal. She could feel her chest tightening. She knew what he was talking about. The burning in her chest. It hadn’t been much more than a stirring, thoughts swirling in her mind, but with each passing day it seemed to grow. She’d thought that it was just nerves as she was anxious to cross the sea, but now, after reading his words, she wasn’t so sure. Could there really be a prophecy?

She looked back down at the journal, slamming it closed. Fear suddenly gripped her. If she was to succumb to Doran’s madness, she didn’t want to know. She rose quickly to her feet, leaving the cursed book where she found it. She needed some fresh air, and she was nearly running as she started down the winding stairs.

“Lady Thyra?”

Thyra heard Kegan’s voice, but she didn’t stop. The need to escape was too heavy in her mind. She realized she was gasping softly for a breath.

“Thyra, stop!”

Thyra couldn’t hear the plea in Kegan’s voice as she ran to the terrace doors, throwing them open. She drew long, ragged breaths as she stood on the terrace, trying to draw in as much of the cool air as she could. She heard Kegan’s steps behind her as he approached.

“What has gotten into you?” he demanded.

Thyra shook her head. “I can’t,” she whispered softly. She straightened her shoulders, looking out over the gardens. In the distance, the sky was being painted with evening colors. “I can’t read that journal.”

“Why?” Kegan asked. He stepped toward her. His voice softened. “What has you so frightened?”

Thyra grimaced, hugging her middle. “I see too much of myself,” she whispered.

Kegan reached out a hand to lay it on her shoulder. “Then you must continue,” he said earnestly. “You cannot know your own fate unless you know Doran’s.”

Thyra rounded on him. “What if I don’t want to know Doran’s fate?” she demanded. ” What if I want to make my own?”

Kegan frowned, stepping back from her. “If you follow your intuition, then you’re not making your own fate,” he said shortly. “If whatever this voice is continues to call and you listen, you’re walking the path you say you don’t want to.” He turned, pointing to the doors. “You have to finish.”

Thyra’s brow furrowed. She was silent for a long time, worry in her lavender eyes.

“You cannot know until you finish the journal,” Kegan urged gently. “You’re the only one who can understand Doran’s madness.”

Thyra felt her body tense, wondering if he thought she was touched by madness as well. She bit her tongue, though, keeping her thoughts to herself. After a moment, she nodded, relenting. “Fine.”

Kegan seemed pleased. He allowed her ahead of him, escorting her back to the library. Once inside, he shut the door, trailing behind her to the desk. He could see the apprehension on her face as she ran her fingers over the cover once more.

“Would you read it to me?” he asked suddenly.

Thyra looked up at him, arching a brow. “Were you not taught how to read?” she asked sardonically.

Kegan scowled at her. “I can read just fine,” he said shortly. “But maybe it will allay your fears if you read it aloud.”

Thyra paused, considering, before nodding. “Alright.”

The Story of Gladianima (Part VI)

The first day of winter, the 236th year Post-Priorae.

“The winds seem particularly cold this year. I can’t put my finger on it, but there is a chill in the air that lingers long after the gale stops howling. I can feel it stirring something in my bones.

I’ve decided to keep this record, as my mind seems to slip more as time goes by…It has been more than two hundred years since I saw the last of them, but even now I still feel as if there is something watching me. I ventured beyond the manor walls yesterday to hunt with my brothers. We picked up the trail of game and soon became separated chasing it through the brush. Somehow, I ended up alone, creeping upon a clearing that I failed to recognize. I hunt these woods often with my kin, so this left me feeling out of sorts. It was the first time I felt the chill.

The clearing was not what I expected. It was empty of the snows that should have been knee-deep, and the sun was shining down through the branches. Strange flowers were blooming as if it was a spring day, the scent of Mother’s bathing salts and spices filling the air. I was lured into the clearing, dumbstruck by the sight of it. I couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing, but then I realized I was being watched. I knew I should have been fearful, but I couldn’t feel anything as glittering eyes peered at me beyond the stretch of the trees. I could see the length of a figure moving silently in the shadows, a feat that seemed impossible, if my eyes weren’t deceiving me.

I thought perhaps I was dreaming. I was merely a young child when my father and my mother raised the last of the monokeros for the Monarchy. I don’t remember much of the collapse, except that one day our stables were full, and the next the beasts were gone, along with the powerful magic that the Priorae brought to our world. My parents referred to it as the Collapse. I was too young to comprehend what was happening, but it amounted to mass genocide, which I learned when I was older. I don’t know why I’m including this, as these words may never be seen by any eyes other than my own, but I have to assure myself that I’m not mad. What I saw was real.

The creature never stepped from the shadows, but I felt it watching me as I fled the clearing to find my brothers. Even now, inside the walls of our home, I can feel its presence. It isn’t oppressive, per se, but it is invasive in a way I’m not familiar with. As if something is tickling the corners of my mind, asking to be let in and privy to my thoughts. I don’t understand how this can be. I know this is why I must keep this record. I must document my descent into insanity, or whatever this may be.

The feeling has persisted and feels as if it will only worsen as time passes.

 

The fourth day of winter, the 236th year Post-Priorae.

The watching persists. I feel it as a buzz pressing against my skull like the humming of bees inside a nest. I dream of eyes, watching me, following my every movement, begging to see to my thoughts. I don’t know how much longer I can resist whatever this call is.

My brothers think I am gripped with madness, confining me to my room and my books. They’ve sent for a mage, but there is nothing that can be done now. I know that the only way to stop this is to submit to it. But I can’t know if that is what I should do. Should I allow this invading force into my being?

It tries to tell me to accept it, that it means no harm. But how can I know that when this foreign presence refuses to reveal itself to me?

It tells me that I cannot experience its glory until I accept it into myself. As if it is a bogeyman that cannot have life until I believe it exists.

I don’t know how long I can fight against it. I don’t know why it has chosen me. I feel there is a purpose it has in mind for me, and I am afraid.

*****

It is dark out, and the darkness presses upon my mind like a sucking void, trying to consume me. I can feel it now, so close to its goal. My hands tremble as I write this and sweat drips from my brow with my effort to remain strong.

I can hear a whisper in my mind, telling me everything will be fine. I only need to accept it. It doesn’t desire to consume me, but I can’t…

The voice grows increasingly louder, clearer with each pleading request. It sounds like the waves on the lake in the summer time…the smell of salts and spices fills my nostrils now. It has finally come. I can see it now, its eyes shining brightly in the darkness. I feel no fear now. I understand why it has come. I understand why it needs me. Yes, please come in. Join me.”