The Wars of Light and Shadow - All Darkness Met
by E. Liddell


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The Ancient

I tripped again and cursed the darkness. I had been wandering through these wretched stone corridors for days, unable to find a way out and seeing no-one and nothing except more organic-looking rock and the odd flitting shadow that could have belonged to some living being.

Darkness. I hate the dark. I always have. It's natural for my species. We Empyrean are creatures of light and air, not of darkness. But I had been first entrapped in a human body, which was now steadily weakening from lack of food, and then forced out of the human world and into this place.

I am going to die here. But I had come to terms with that some time ago.

The passageway I was walking along curved back on itself again, opening out into what had once been a throne room. Again. It seemed that I couldn't find my way away from this blasted room.

#You might try looking for the obvious.#

I made a rude noise. It was one of the few things I could do better in this disgusting shell of wet flesh than I had been able to as pure light. #Such as what?# I asked the god. The god that had tricked me into this. What a companion for one's last hours!

#There is something here that you will need. Search the room.#

I made the noise again. #And what good will it do me to find this . . . object . . . if I die of thirst?#

There was no response. I hadn't been expecting one. Gods don't enjoy being questioned by mere immortals. Ex-immortals. This body was human and weak. Those blasted Crystal Weavers would almost certainly outlive me now.

Malachite . . . I could see his face in front of me, with its silver eyes and frame of pale hair. Damn you! The chief of my enemies was the only creature that I hated more than the Eternal Light.

My hands were shaking. I took deep breaths, trying to regain control of myself. One day these human emotions are going to kill me. I must remain in control, and search the damned room if that's the only way the Eternal Light is going to let me out of here.

The obvious place to begin was among the remains of the shattered throne. A part of the seat was intact, and I perched there, trying to conserve what was left of my strength. What's this? The left arm of the throne was also nearly intact, but a shard had been broken off the edge to reveal a hidden compartment. My hands were bleeding by the time I had forced it all the way open.

Inside was a small, pale green gem which glowed with its own inner light. A Weaver's spirit crystal, I identified it, and raised my hand to smash it against the darker and heavier stone on which I sat. Any Crystal Weaver was a potential enemy. And yet . . . To my surprise, I found myself hesitating. The crystal was heavy with the spirit of the Weaver who had once worn it, and somehow, I sensed it to be imbued with a hate that matched my own.

#It is the crystal of Beryl, Onyx's daughter and his greatest enemy.#

Onyx! He might have inspired even more of my hatred than Malachite, if he had not been dead. Permanently dead, with his spirit crystal destroyed, as far as we had been able to tell.

#Can she help me?# I asked eagerly.

#This is her place. She knows its ways and its denizens. You have only to find some creature to use as a matrix and revive her. We will show you the way.#

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I folded the last of the three grey uniforms into the bottom of the bag--Almandite had called it a "gym bag". As if I cared. It appeared that I would be traveling light. Beryl had destroyed nearly all my possessions in a fit of rage after she had imprisoned me in crystal. I had salvaged a few uniforms, with the others' help, but that was all.

The crystal prison. I shuddered. When had it drained my life away, leaving me free to be resurrected? There was no way of telling. Eternal sleep. Ha! Beryl never did know what she was doing.

There was only one more item that I wanted to take. I hesitated with it in my hand. The picture had been damaged by time and stained by I- had-no-desire-to-know-what, but the people it depicted were still adequately visible. Malachite stood centermost, dressed in the familiar stormcloud grey that he had never put aside, his left arm around Zoisite's waist. Nephrite was on Zoisite's far side, his smile resembling the ones I had seen him giving Almandite lately. And on Malachite's right, me. And on my right . . .

He stood, still smiling, undamaged by time. Alexandrite. My brother. The only places that I would ever see him again were in my memory and in this picture which I had recovered from among his bones when I had gone to lay them to rest at last. Judging from its placement against the skeleton, he had kept it close to his heart. Along with his bones and his belt buckle, it had been all that was left.

I placed the picture on top of the pile of cloth and zipped the bag shut. Never again . . . That was what I had said to myself when the Negaforce had taken me, that never again would I allow myself to feel such pain. I had given myself over willingly to that evil, asking only that it erase the image of my brother's body that had still hung in my mind's eye. It had done that, and so much more. And now I was free of it. Free. The word had never tasted so bitter.

<<You're leaving.>>

<<Yes, damn you, Malachite, I'm leaving. There's nothing for me here. Being with you and the others only brings back memories which I would rather have never let see the light of day. I'm going, and I'm never coming back. Now, get out of my head!>> I threw all of my power into creating a barrier around my mind, not believing for a moment that it would work. Malachite was our Center, chosen for that position because he was the most powerful. But for some reason of his own, he chose not to test me, allowing my withdrawal into the gloom of my own thoughts.

I picked the bag up off the futon I had stolen from the apartment where I had woken into this new life and cast a glance around my otherwise unfurnished room. No regrets.

I checked the pocket of my jacket for the plane tickets. I could have teleported all the way to where I was going, but I didn't want the others to trace me, now or ever. I wanted only to be alone.

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I smoothed a lock of hair back from Zoisite's sleeping face and sighed. The sound caused my lover's emerald eyes to flicker open.

<<He's gone, isn't he?>>

"He's gone." I made my response aloud. "I hadn't been expecting it to be quite so soon."

<<It's been almost three months.>>

Three months, yes. Three months consisting largely of enforced idleness, contrasting with frenetic spates of activity for the first two as we tried to find a way to revive Almandite. I wasn't surprised that Jadeite had been getting cabin fever. Much of the work, when there was any, had fallen on him, since, other than Almandite herself, he was the only one of us that knew anything about healing.

Three months since I had nearly killed myself with the Imperium Silver Crystal. I had never told the others just how close that really had been. I would never have tried it if we hadn't been desperate for a weapon against the Empyrean. As it was, it had sensed the Negaforce's taint on me and it had been all I could do to force it to submit to my will. The palm of my left hand still bore superficial scars where it had burned me.

The others' escapes had been likewise narrow. Except for Jadeite's. I wasn't entirely certain what was wrong with him. Certainly the realization that he had forgotten his brother's life--and death, at Beryl's hands--completely couldn't have been easy on him. But I would have expected him, as his memories returned, to come to trust the rest of us. Instead, he had pulled away, even more so over the past month. Had Zoisite and I been so thoroughly wrapped up in each other, and Nephrite in Almandite, that we had failed to notice what was happening to the fifth member of our Weave?

<<We've always been just the least bit wrapped up in each other. It never used to dim your perceptions of the rest of them.>>

It still surprised me when Zoisite managed to follow my thoughts that way. During the thousand years we had spent in the Negaverse we had learned to keep our minds apart. It was only recently that they had begun to flow together again.

From time to time, I had the sense that we were almost becoming one creature. Someone with my power and Zoisite's temper--now there was a frightening thought!

I trailed the tips of my fingers along the edge of his jaw as I tried to get a sense of what the others were doing. Nephrite and Almandite radiated pleasure, and I guessed that they were also enjoying a late morning in bed, undisturbed by the doubts that were troubling me. Jadeite . . . I concentrated. He was trying very hard to wall himself off, but the linkage ran deep. Waiting. I had the sense of impatient waiting, and utter boredom. I could sense nothing more.

<<Stop that. I've told you before, when you're here with me, I want you with me, not off checking on the others.>>

<<You are a vain, jealous little fool,>> I told him. But extremely beautiful. I didn't dare tell him that, of course. It would go straight to his head. In any case, our relationship was based on a great deal more than physical attraction. Limited affection didn't survive very long in the Negaverse, and we had defied Beryl in our own small way for a thousand years. <<And I love you to distraction. But eventually, we are going to have to get out of this bed . . .>>

<<What is it now?>> As always, Zoisite noticed my thoughts turning away from him.

<<I'm thinking about soldiers with no war to fight,>> I replied slowly. <<I'm thinking about a leader with no-one to lead. Like it or not, those are my only skills, those and magic. And we can't reveal our powers to the humans. It isn't much to base a future on.>>

<<Why worry? Are you getting bored? If so, I have a suggestion . . .>>

Which nearly managed to scandalize me. <<I won't even ask where you got that one. But eventually, we're going to run out of tricks. We need something to do, Zoisite. Loafing around here honing our powers and skills--and spending entire mornings in bed--will only take us so far.>>

<<It never did take you very long to get restless. I often think that was why you played politics at the Earthan court. Something to do.>>

<<Basically, yes. But there's nothing like that in today's human world. They now hide the real power deep in the depths of their bureaucracy. I have no interest in--what's the expression? "Driving a desk"?>>

Zoisite snickered. <<Somehow I just can't see you wearing a tie. Or cutting your hair to conform to the accepted standards for a serious human bureaucrat.>>

<<You don't think I'd look good with short hair?>> I pretended to be offended.

<<I think you look good regardless--and you call me vain!>>

<<We both are, I suppose. The Negaforce was able to taint even our pride in our appearances.>>

<<Please, let's not talk about that.>>

I didn't blame him. Those years with Beryl had been bad enough for me, but they had driven Zoisite borderline insane. <<Don't worry. I have no desire for you to go back to speaking in that annoying falsetto.>> Nevertheless, I sighed. At least in the Negaverse, we hadn't been as out-of-place as we were in the human world.

<<Get your mind back here!>> Zoisite has never had much of a way with words, but he more than makes up for it with his ability with his hands. Once he had made up his mind to distract me, there was no way my mind would be allowed to return to wandering.

But even as I pressed my lips to his, I could not help but wonder what was going to become of us.

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return to Index / go to Chapter 1
The Crystal Weaver Saga Index

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