Two hundred years ago…
Marvina peeked around the sandstone wall just as Raesha exited the chamber from the belly of the temple. Her daughter’s green eyes outshone the brilliant yellow bracelets and jewels adorning her wrists and ankles. She gasped: from within those emerald depths glowed a tainted deliriousness; one that told her this golden daughter of two nations had indeed fallen onto a darker path.
Raesha’s gold shoulder plates should’ve been glistening with sweat from the virtuous deeds that happened beneath the sun. Instead, they were subdued in the shadows of the night, spattered with red. Blood slipped down Raesha’s black whip and dripped onto the gold floor, one as cold and unforgiving as the other.
The Empians had just entered the Dark Descent. Ranilla permitted Raesha’s atrocities to poison the already dark minds of the Night Empians. Now that Ranilla had killed herself, Marvina and the Twelve had to restore order.
Raesha closed the door behind her. When she proceeded to walk by, Marvina stepped out, startling her.
“Ah, good evening mother.”
“Hello, my dear.”
Raesha wiped away stands of honey-brown hair that was matted to her damp cheek. “Are you wanting to watch?”
“I do not care much of what you do in there.” She glanced at the Dark Chamber.
Raesha nodded. “Yes, you may not care. But my subjects had given me permission; they volunteered.”
"Your ways are not ours,” Marvina blurted.
Her daughter licked her whip clean of blood before placing it in her golden belt. “No? Why? Because my methods are different?” She smirked. “You are seduced by the Dark the same way I am. You were the one who told Ranilla about the Dark Guardian in the first place. I am only keeping the Empians in line.” She smiled at her private thoughts, no doubt revisiting memories when she had tortured the Night Empians, some to the point where they had succumbed to their injuries.
Marvina nodded and moments passed in silence. Her fingers played with her grey shift dress.
Then: “You are right. And that’s the answer I was looking for. I had to make sure your heart was truly in it. Follow me, dear child, it is now time.”
Raesha’s eyes widened. “It will happen? The Dark Guardian finally accepts me? He wants me again?”
Marvina smiled. “My dear, you have always made yourself noticeable to him. And, yes, he wants you again. I am joyed to announce you will become like us.”
Marvina took her upstairs into the grand foyer lit with gemstones that had been soaking up the sun all day. Other Night Empians glanced their way, giving them a nod. She brought Raesha up the stairway that led to the higher corridors where other rooms awaited. But they were not going there. Instead, they turned right on the walkway, where the Dark Chamber waited.
Inside, lining the walls, stood a dozen of Rael and Ranilla’s closest family members who formed the Twelve. Their faces glowed green from the massive urn burning in the center of the room. After their passing, this circle of the Magi had accepted their new lives as Dark Empians in a manner of some dignity and respect despite their new allegiance.
Since the Dark Descent, the Empians had grown divided: the ones who tolerated their new existence, and the others who thrived on it. Even her niece, Lazri, had chosen the darkest path. All remnants of her former self – the Empian of Light – had vanished from her.
Now her daughter was becoming the worst one of them all.
Marvina and Trelin – the head of the council of the magi – had to create order before the Empians annihilated themselves with such mindless destructive behavior. She inwardly cursed at Rael: if not for his lust for the human named Ayella, none of this would have happened. Her mission was to rectify his mistakes and save what was left of the Empians.
And they would start by quelling the one who stood as the epitome of this terrible example.
Raesha looked around the room in amazement. Her eyes wavered from the glow in the room, as if her eyes were pools of a green ocean. Her innocence and inner beauty came from her Empian side. But her hair, skin tone, and features reflected the exotic splendor of her Sadarian heritage. Marvina believed her and Arkhur’s son, Anton, had succeeded in their mission in creating the perfect creature. Raesha would’ve become a legend: being the most astonishing female that had ever existed, physically, and spiritually.
But that would never be.
The Twelve quietly observed Raesha as she strode in, her head held high.
Marvina led her to the back of the shimmering room where a single coffin sat in darkness. But Raesha looked pleased nevertheless since it was made of gold.
We must hurry, Marvina told Trelin in her mind-voice. I feel the Dark Guardian coming.
Raesha turned to Trelin in anticipation.
“Do you accept your fate?”
“Of course I do,” Raesha told Trelin. “But where is the Dark Guardian?”
“You will be given Night Empian blood. That is all that is required for acceptance; he wants to keep his distance for now as you have hurt him. Once you do this, you will prove your new loyalty, and then he will present himself to you.”
Raesha nodded with a sigh. “I expected as much.”
Marvina noticed sweat beading on Trelin’s brow.
Then, Marvina’s breathing tightened; she sensed the Dark Guardians’ anger. It was weakening her life force. But the Guardian could do nothing about it or show himself; he was only allowed to appear when beckoned, and Raesha had not asked for him.
“What is that?” Raesha asked, about to climb into the coffin.
“What is what, my dear?” Trelin asked with a forced calm.
“Something came into the room…is that the Dark Guardian?”
“Yes,” Marvina said, hoping her daughter couldn’t detect how much her voice was quivering. “He’s going to watch.”
Raesha climbed into the casket and the Twelve marched over and encircled it.
Just as Raesha rested back into the golden silk interior, Lazri ran into the room, screaming. “Stop! Please do not do it!”
Raesha sat up, confusion and anger contorting her face.
Marvina’s breath caught in her throat just as the Dark Guardian appeared. His hollow eyes ignited a crimson burn as he scanned the chamber. His clawed hand reached out to Trelin who abruptly went into convulsions; the Guardian feasted on his soul.
Two of the council members grabbed Lazri while two others exhaled mist at her. Lharkin’s sister instantly froze.
“By the power of the New Domain,” Marvina announced to Raesha, “we forsake you to eternal captivity”.
Before Raesha could use her powers to get out of the tomb, the Twelve pushed her in and closed the lid. Just as it locked into place, two members dropped to the floor, writhing in pain. The Dark Guardian landed on them with his talons and inhaled their souls.
Raesha’s muted wails came first from betrayal, then from the spikes that plunged into her skin. She banged against the walls, matching the fierce beating of Marvina’s heart. The tomb toppled over, and its gold façade shattered and fell to dust. What remained was a decrepit casket not even fit for a prisoner. Around the closure glowed energy, indicating that the process of removing her blood had commenced. When her muffled screaming stopped, the tomb opened and the outer covering – with the spikes – fell away. What remained was a cage holding a mute forsaken woman.
Tears streamed down Marvina’s face as she looked at her daughter. “I am so sorry, but I had to.”
The Dark Guardian glared at Marvina. You think you can play with me? You will not be alive to see what I have in store next! He flew at her and she closed her eyes. Darkness descended on her before he consumed her soul.
Trelin and the remaining members of the Twelve all respired in relief when the Dark Guardian left.
Trelin bent down next to Marvina’s body and whispered: “I will see you in the next realm.”
Lazri stood in her ice casing, staring at them with her light gray eyes. When the next deed was done, they would unfreeze her.
“Quickly,” Trelin ordered the Twelve, “take Raesha’s body out and embalm her before her soul can escape. We do not want her out now, not after what we just did.”
Gordian and his partner, Grella, went to him. “We must make sure that she never gets out of this place.”
“The Light Chamber is no longer accessible to us, so we never have to worry,” Trelin said. “She can never be summoned now. We are blessed at least with that.”
“We will keep watch,” Grella said.
After Raesha was mummified, Trelin nodded approvingly. He walked to the cage and placed a hand on it. “You are condemned for an eternity, and in time you will be forgotten.”
Thirty years ago…
The Dark Guardian of the Night Realm spent much time contemplating. He wanted something very bad: power and dominion in all worlds and realms. But that was before he discovered fate and how it worked, how it played in all domains. Fate taught him more than he knew. And he was both awed and angered by it. Fate was not on anyone’s side. The game of the Gods and the Guardians were forbidden to participate in, but he did so anyway and orchestrated the Dark Descent for the Light Empians.
But life wasn’t without irony.
He thought about his conversation with one of his greatest disciples.
If you believe the woman I just killed was the one in the prophecy, then why did you not stop me tonight? Why let me do it? Is she not more useful to us alive?
The Guardian looked at Lharkin: Ultimately, we cannot cheat fate regardless of what we do. But we can play games with it, as it does with us.
Did something happen to you that you wish to play such a game? Lharkin asked.
Yes. I wanted to test something.
The Dark Guardian never told him what it was. But if Lharkin was as wise as the Dark Guardian believed him to be, Lharkin should’ve figured it out even if it meant it wasn’t until he saved Cassandra’s life at the expense of his own.
Love was what the Dark Guardian had tested; it was the other component of fate that first captured his interest.
He needed to experiment the bond between Lharkin and Cassandra. The Dark Guardian had failed and own lost someone during his own assessment. He had fallen in the Light’s spell of being enamoured. He used to think fate was stronger than love. Love, it seemed, had the upper hand.
It was the only time in the Dark Guardian’s existence that he could have lost everything by tipping the scales over to the Light Guardian’s power. But he no longer desired to give everything up for love; he was burnt by it long ago and the stinging in his soul had never ceased.
I still feel for her.
Lharkin had proven that love could exist against all odds and thus worth the battle.
But that Empian had failed in getting Raesha resurrected.
I had her in the spirit domain with me before Cassandra killed her and took her away from me. Raesha was truly my equal then. He needed her again, at all costs; his existence was not complete without her in it. Even if it meant she would never feel for him, he wanted to sense her emotion one way or another, whether it be in happiness or despair.