It is many odd years in the future.
In terms of centuries,
more than one, but less than two..
Some would say that’s a pittance in the eyes of an elf,
while others would argue on the number of generations in human terms..
To say the truth, time is never a pittance.
It’s the same for everyone.
Once gone, it’s gone..
The only thing that remains is the pain;
that which we arrogantly like to call; Wisdom.
This story takes place in the said future, in some unknown reagents of the Salt Woods, a bit north of Fey Town and the Dream Woods island, and about a week or two of lazy travel, west from the Academy of Melshieve, far, far south of the king’s lands..
The following stories must be read to fully grasp the significance of this particular story;
A Bard’s Tale VII, “1598. yıl”
Somewhere Bitter In the Darkness (18+)
A Shift in Perspective (18+)
Kocakarı Hikayesi (18+)
And Just Beyond That (18+)
1:33:017 – Elveda, Felishia..
Eski Efendim, Sahibim ve
Çok Daha Fazlası..
Used more iron oxide with the green copper rot and the trampberry roots today. Got better results. You’d have loved it. I am going to dust in a pinch of flecked gold as well, just to hint that it isn’t really rust but deliberately applied paint..”, said the raspy, somewhat tenoric voice, speaking into the shiny, smooth, dark green, marble-like stone in her small palm.
She stared at her great handy work as she unconsciously moved some of her dark, honey-colored hair, tinted with a few, tender whites behind one ear and smudged oil, paint, and dirt on both —a habit she’d picked up much too late to have been truely in her character.
“Then, when the paint dries, I think I will take it out for a spin down the Salt Hills. I think you’d have loved that too..”
Soft, naked footsteps approached and the much older version of Arcantonic Palecog hid the stone in her palm..
✱ ✱ ✱
Who are you talking to, luv?”, said a voluptuous and illustrious voice as the very tall, very dark figure of Seressa Wraiven appeared at the entrance of the barn sized workshop.
She stood there and with the sun on her back, her very long, voluminous, fiery pink hair seemed ablaze. Upon closer inspection, however, one could see her hair also had a few traces of white in them as well..
The sunlight outlined and sort of put a surreal glow to her very curvy and very much buxom figure, all wrapped in a pink, laced and a tad scandalous, very mini skirt dress.
Seressa scanned her pairs’ workshop and all the ‘neatly organized’ cluster in it!
“No one.. Just taking mental notes.”, she lied.
In all candor, that by itself was rare;
Like, ‘never ever’ kind of rare..
Arcantonic never lied.
Blazed, blustered, swore, cussed, cursed, burned, and did highly illegal threatenings, certainly, but she never lied.
And certainly not to her pair..
After nearly one hundred and eighty years being paired to this strange, honest, extraordinarily tall, dark, and strikingly beautiful girl, she had just lied to her.
“Is it finally finished, then?”, Seressa asked with a lot of cheer in her voice, as she peered at the next-gen Mechaber.
In all candor, that by itself was also rare;
Seressa never did cheery with ‘a lot’.
Not so much as ‘never ever’, but that it just didn’t happen.
She was a cheery, optimistic soul by nature. So much so that it had taken her pair years and years of getting used to, and only because she had finally figured out that her very tall, very dark pair was not faking the cheer, but was, in fact, as cheery as she appeared to be..
The fact of the matter was, Seressa was worried.
A lump had settled deep in the pit of her stomach and had been there for the past few months, almost a year now and growing by the day.
And she was certain it had to do with her pair, Arcantonic.
Nothing too obvious nor overt. Merely an eye here, or an out of place look there, the growing number of times she’d found her pair talking to herself and the nonapparent secrecy..
To be honest, Tonic had never been the share-everything kind of girl, certainly. But she’d also never had the frame of mind for deliberately keeping things from her either. When pushed just a bit, she’d blurt it all out, all in a blaze.
There never had been any ‘silent secrets’ between them either. Like there was now..
For Seressa, it felt like a faceless, third party had entered their conversation that she was not privy to and the two of them quietly whispered to one another, not being obvious enough nor being deliberately rude, but not quiet including her in either.
It made Seressa feel like she was slowly being pushed into switching places with this ‘faceless third person’ and would soon be totally left out and actually become the faceless third person..
Just the thought of that had made her grind her canines and silently snarl, ‘I am her pair, damit! We are ‘Gales and Gallows..’, any number of times..
It was the culmination of all these little ‘out of place’s and the ‘odd silence’s that told Seressa, something was going on with her pair, and that it wouldn’t end well.
“Just about..”, replied the small gnome, in a very uncharacteristic display of cheer in her own voice as she patted the big, mechanical monstrosity standing next to her. It looked very impressive. And certainly, a lot more buff than the first version she had engineered more than a century and a half ago..
“My old professor who stole and published my first designs can chew on his own liver; that ‘can’ was meant to run with a lame, steam-propelled engine running on MOS 1.1 with a single core.. This is not!”, she said with a lot of smug.
“And this boy here is totally corrosion proof..”
“What’s it run on?”, Seressa asked.
“This and that..”, Tonic replied evasively.
That worried Seressa even more..
“We are getting some visitors later tomorrow.”, she said. “la Fey is coming over with her son. She sent a message by—”
“—bird?”, finished Arcantonic.
“Yea, how did you know?”
“She always sends her messages by bird? I guess squirrels aren’t very reliable. Once they see nuts, they go nuts!”, snorted the gnome as she mixed some more crushed trampberry roots into the paint.
“Her hubby won’t make it though. She said he had some ‘winter things’ to do. Guess she will tell us what all that’s about when she gets here, but I suspect it’s because he can’t stand all the ‘silly’ gathered in one place.”, Seressa said.
“Can’t blame him..”, inserted Arcantonic.
“Oww.. and Cora’s coming too, though I can’t imagine how she could find the time, what with her ‘New Ironfrost’ project going..”
“Cora doesn’t do projects.”, said Arcantonic absently. “Only academy stuck-ups do ‘projects’. Cora does the real thing.. Smart, practical girl, she is. Always liked her for it..”
“That’s true, I suppose.”, murmured Seressa. “I sent a fast courier to Bowling Hills, by the way, when I first learned both Inshala and Cora were coming.”
“Of course, you did..”, grunted the little gnome.
“Brom said he’d be happy to join us as well. Should be on his way this very moment.”, the tall girl said happily.
“Of course, he is.. That unscrupulous little weasel just couldn’t miss an ‘all-girls’ party.”, she scowled.
“An ‘all-girls’ party does need good entertainment, though. Don’t you think?”, she asked.
“You just want him ‘cuz you still think he’s available for ‘pursing’..”, Tonic grunted.
“I never got to coin-purse you.. Might as well do him!”, she smiled but didn’t..
Seressa watched her pair as she pinched in some flaked gold into the paint.
“What is wrong, luv?”, she asked finally..
..just like that.
Arcantonic did not feign any incomprehension.
She did not try to dodge, avoid, or duck under the question.
She answered like she was ready for it and she did it without missing a beat.
“We were sent back..”, she whispered.
And there was so much heat, so much anger, so much infuriated, unadulterated frustration in that voice.
“..to right a bloody wrong for the Celestials. Why then, wasn’t my wrong fixed? What was so lacking in me, that they couldn’t be bothered to right my wrong?”, she blazed with a barely audible fire.
“We gave them our lives, our blood.. NO! We gave them more; we gave them everything we cared for..“
Seressa wordlessly stared at her Tonic..
..and saw only her broken soul.
She saw her only broken!
✱ ✱ ✱
Oww, my dear girl..”, Seressa whispered and silently floated to her pair.
“NO.. Please, Seressa, don’t!”, croaked Tonic harshly. “Not this time. No amount of your embrace could fix what it broke one thousand years ago..”
At that moment she understood something that moved the very foundations of her existence.
At that moment she understood the thing that rocked her at a fundamental level.
And at that moment she knew..
..that she no longer had a pair.
“Gales and Gallows..”, she whispered.
“The gales have long died, dear Seressa, and where I am going is beyond the gallows.”, Tonic said, though, not unkindly.
“What.. what will I do without my pair?”, the very tall Seressa said, with a trembling, broken voice.
“What you always do, my dear, dear friend; you shall ‘live’..”, replied Tonic softly. “You.. you made me live, didn’t you? You made me feel. You made me care. You made me.. love. You made me whole and we made a good run of it.
We ran, together, from big, blooming explosions. We sat in ratty old inns with filthy mugs in our hands and silly smiles on our faces because we’d just been banned from yet, another town, and I loved every single moment of all of it.. All because of you.
I thank you for them, girl. All of them. I love you, my sister pair, and I shall cherish you and guard our memories together in my heart.. Always. But where I am going, you can not follow. It’s a one way, one person ticket.”
“You discovered Astral Travel!”, Seressa whispered, with her hands on her lips. “Is that what Mechaber’s running on? Astral matter? Or a dead star you drew from there?”
Arcantonic was astonished, once more, at the potential accuracy of her pairs’ guesses, considering she had never been an artificer nor the researching type, but she did not reply.
There was just no need.
At that moment, the details of what Mechaber ran on was a moot point..
“But.. Why? Why now? Why ever?”
The voice Seressa asked was nothing short of despair..
“My sending stone..”, Tonic replied.
“Tonic, luv..”, Seressa said with anguish, “You.. you have been talking to that thing for years and years and years.. It’s never replied you back. And it’s never been healthy for you to have kept it up for as long as you have..”
“But I finally got a reply.”, said Tonic quietly.
Seressa just stared at her pair.
“There was a lot of interference and it was barely intelligible.. and very short.. but an answer it was.”, Tonic said with the same, quiet voice. There appeared large tears in her eyes, however, and a content little smile on her small, tiny mouth.
“Tonic, luv, you must know, the pair to that stone, where ever it is, is still here.. in our time, not where and when you gave him. There is no way he could have lived over a thousand years..”, said Seressa with total panic in her eyes.
“We did..”, Tonic said bitterly.
“No, luv..”, Seressa replied in desperation, “..we didn’t. We merely traveled it.”
“Yes.”, Tonic said. “But I know what I heard. And what I heard was him, calling my name, and begging for my help..”
“No! No, Tonic.. Please.. Don’t do this. Don’t leave..”, Seressa’s voice crumbled.
Tonic looked up at her beautiful pair.
And quietly she said, “Will we die, just a little, then?”
“No. We shall go together, and die together! You and I.. If you could artifice one seat, you certainly could do two..”, Seressa pleaded, tears rolling freely down her smooth, dark face..
Tonic dropped what she was doing.
She grabbed one of the many pieces of hard, linen cloths piled on her workbench, wiped her hands clean, then tossed it back on to the pile and came up to her pair.
She stared up at the glorious eyes of her pair for a long moment, then silently embraced her.
True, the furthest she could reach her pair hardly qualified as far as her hips, let alone, her slim waist, but that didn’t matter.
History, it seemed, enjoyed ‘odd firsts’..
..and here was such a one;
For the first time, knowingly, deliberately and without any reservation, Arcantonic hugged her sister pair, pinkses and laces, phloxes, and cherry blooms ..
To that hug, Arcantonic gave her all and took her all; a lifetime worth of her pairs’ soft, phlox fragrance to carry wherever she’d go.
“True to your word as ever, you’d follow me to and through hell if I asked you. But the possibility of successfully navigating an astral field is approximately three thousand seven hundred and twenty to one!
That is something, I can not, and will not ask of you..”
“Tonic, baby..”, said Seressa, with pain and the understanding of total loss in her trembling voice. “..you never needed to have to ask.”
“No, girl..”, Tonic said softly. “..this is something I have to do for myself. This is a wrong only I can right. You can not get involved, and there’s no coming back..
It’s time, my dear, dear Seressa. It’s time for you to let me go..
It’s time for me to find out how much I have learned from you.
I am sorry it has to be so.. And without any forewarning. But this is my own prophecy I must fulfill..”
“But you never believed in prophecies..”, anguished Seressa.
“What.. After seeing one prophecy come to life after another? It would have made me look like a total ass if I still didn’t believe in them.. And this one is mine, and mine alone.
Do give my best to Cora. She is a lot more gentle than she lets us see. Having put up with me all those years without even being my pair was sort of a give away on her part.. And to that weasel of a hobbit.. Tell him, ‘Eyes front, no longer..’ He’s free of me now..
And to Inshala, Lorna, Laila.. You know, the whole gang..
While you are at it, tell the pretty princes I understand the loss of her Ri Dorin more than most, even though a century has passed over it..
Years, it seems, doesn’t make some things any easier, nor bearable..
Tell her.. tell her, ‘The ones who love us will miss us..’
And to that weird Xyro girl, thank her for me, will you? Please? This whole thing was her idea..”
✱ ✱ ✱
Inshala ‘la Fey’ Frostmane found Seressa sitting in her rocking chair, on the porch of her cottage, staring blankly and so lost, at the setting sun, and her intuitive instincts told her that something was terribly wrong.
“Where is beloved Arcantonic?”, she asked with a soft, urgent voice.
It took Seressa Wraiven many tries before any coherent sound would come out of her..
“She.. she’s gone.”, was all the whisper that finally escaped her.
“She’s gone and she’s left me behind..”
✱ ✱ ✱
Everyone had left. It had been a sad, bittersweet gathering of people who had known each other for so long. Inshala had arrived first, followed by Brom, who ended up bawling like a little boy, when he heard about Tonic’s unexpected, and irretrievable departure.
Tonic, was gone..
Cora had arrived the next day. She had not cried. She’d just stared around stupefied. She’d really liked that little gnome. Getting to know her had been a trying chore, true, but well worth it.
Laila Wolvesbane, a Ranger Marshal now, had also dropped in later that evening, followed by, to everyone’s surprise, Lorna Feymist, the Rise and Queen of Bari Na-ammen and High Woods, along with her cousin and first advisor, the newly betrothed Anglenna Brightleaf appeared there that very evening too.
Though neither of them said it, everyone suspected Inshala for the arrival of the two royalties’.
Inshala did smile shyly about it as she spoon-fed the little boy squirming on her lap.
Laila was about the same; calm, cool, mature.. Just grimmer, ever since Thomas had died, followed shortly by her cousin, Bremorel..
That had been some ninety years ago and times had changed, but it’s devastation on the marshal had, apparently, stuck.
Everyone had wondered where Lady was, as no one had heard of her for quite some decades. Apparently, she had gone off to some seclusion after the loss of Udoorin, Thomas, and Bremorel, and never seen again after that. The only one present that would know was Laila but she wouldn’t say..
Anglenna had changed.. a lot!
There was very little left of the prim, conceited, supercilious, disdainful, and dismissive High Lady they had met so many years ago. She smiled at others, touched them, held their hands, and even tried to wink once.
It certainly had freaked the hell out of Laila!
Lorna appeared to have slimmed even more than she already had been. She seemed paler and drawn as if happiness had been ripped out of her soul and she seemed.. void now and a lot more reclusive..
The beauty that was Alor’Nadien ne was still there, but the spirit was gone..
When Seressa looked at her, she saw a woman who longed for the voice, the touch, and the face of a loved one, long gone.. And when she looked her in the eyes, she saw her future in them; someone who would silently weep herself to sleep every night..
Throughout their stay, her cousin Anglenna had never left her little queens’ side and it had been her who had desperately tried to cheer everyone..
..ironic as that seemed.
And just weird!
They stayed together, feasting more by each others’ presence than food, but time slipped by too fast, as it often did and everyone had eventually left with genuine promises to repeat the get-together.
It had been a sad case of ‘lost, but not quite found’..
And now Seressa was alone, once again sitting in her rocking chair, staring blankly at yet, another setting sun.
In all her existence, she had never known herself to be thus helpless and..
It was like.. nothing she could readily define. She had wanted to do so many more things with her pair and none of it made any sense to her anymore.
It was like.. her life was a book, two hundred pages long, and a hundred and eighty pages from the middle had been savagely torn off, leaving the center jarringly blank.. and abandoned.
It was like.. she never wanted to dress in pinks.. never wear phlox or cherry blossoms.. never even see pinks. It was as if she liked pinks more when they had annoyed Tonic, even though she’d loved it long before they had ever met.. And with an uncharacteristic display of venomous rage, she had destroyed her most beloved of possessions; her Staff of Blooms..
In less than a few short weeks, she lost all her glamour and nearly half her weight. Bedraggled and torn, she roamed Salt Woods like a haunt, waiting for some priest to please, exorcise her out of her misery.
It seemed the heavens had an odd sense of humor.
In the space of a few months, Seressa became wild.
In the space of a few years, Seressa had become feral..
She had taken an old, rusty sickle to her once beautifully long, reddish-pink curling hair and just.. sawed it off with vehement savagery.
And now, she hunted her food like a wild beast; she waited for her prey, she pounced it on all fours, her long, slim tail lashing, and she tore into it, then and there..
Every once in awhile though, she’d remember her pair and scramble up to her old cottage in hopes of finding her waiting there, only to see the remains of her once, scrupulously clean and tidy home in more and more sad stages of wreckage and disrepair, and raided once again, by animals or men, she didn’t care.
‘Home’ had been where her pair had been and the hair raising howls of a beast in pain and agony could be heard for miles..
Not soon after, rumors of a savage creature layered in Salt Woods spread, attracting the attention of hunters and adventures alike, seeking game and fame.
Once they entered the woods, however, they never came back..
It must be noted that even though any number of complaints were filed against ‘that savage beast in the woods’, the officials at Graystone Keep wordlessly paid restitution for the damages done for any unprovoked attacks but otherwise militantly refused to do anything about it.
They were not privy to the particulars nor the reasons as to why the ‘savage beast’ acted the way it did. They did, however, know exactly who she was and no way in hell or heaven, were they going to move against the Chosen Voice of a prophecy fulfilled..
✱ ✱ ✱
Come.. out..!”, Seressa croaked. It had been months?.. years?.. since the last time she’d spoken and it was hard getting the words out. “I can.. smell you.. sense.. you!”, she said harshly.
“Sense, I can understand..”, said a soft, whispering voice. “..but smell? That’s just sad, Seressa Wraiven, the Chosen Voice of Prophecies, the Maiden of the Raven Queen and the pair of one, beloved Arcantonic Palecog. Shall this be what becomes of thee? A growling, crouching, mindless beast that feasts on what she kills with her own claws, finally slain for some bounty?
Shall this be how the story of Seressa Wraiven ends? Because if it is, they are coming..”
“Let them.. come.. They are not.. the first, and they will not be.. the la—”, Seressa growled with hate.
“I wouldn’t be so sure, dear Seressa. The Bounty Hunters of Palantine are famed for their rate of success and they are coming, just for you. You will not be able to shrug them off as you did all the other enterprising fools.”, the voice said softly, but urgently.
“Finally, then.. I shall die by competent hands.. Should make things.. a lot easier..”, Seressa croaked..
“‘Those who love us, will miss us’, dear Chosen Voice..”, quoted the other kindly.
Seressa just stood there as indescribable anger rose within her.
“I am no chosen and all I ever did was talk trash..”, Seressa suddenly found her voice in that towering rage. “..The Raven Queen has many maidens and more to spare. And Tonic.. my Tonic.. is gone! There is.. there is no one left to love.. and no one left to miss..”
With that, her boiling rage broke and shattered and Seressa fell on to her knees, then on all fours, weeping uncontrollably.
“Why? Why did she leave me? Why? Why? why? why..?”, she moaned on the ground, ravaging at her filthy, drooping hair.
“Consequences, dear Seressa. Because there always are.. You inadvertently stumbled and broke the tablets, and willy-nilly, became the Chosen Voice of the Prophecy. And you spoke the prophecy. You involved four people where there should have been one. You involved a gnome prince, where there should have been none, and by doing so, you took away their ‘choice’.. True, they, in all fairness, still would have followed you, but that would have been their choice to make. A choice that you deprived them of when you included them into the prophecy..
You, my dear Seressa, did what the Outsiders did; you stole the freewill of mortals.. Certainly unawares and not with ill intentions, but intentions and ignorance count for little, when the results are thus devastating and expected there to be no consequences? You were explicitly warned by the old seers of Star Watchers that there would be..
Your suffering for your won’t, is the result of your own choice in words..”
“All.. all I wanted was my friends.. and my pair, my Tonic to be happy..”, cried Seressa.
“And thus she is..”, said the voice softly and silently.
..and an angelic figure appeared among the trees.
Glowing in incandescent light, Ad Ara came to Seressa, held her hand, and gently picked her off her knees and off the ground.
“A woman of your class should be better groomed, dear Seressa, and certainly not grubbing in the dirt..”, she said.
“You.. you are Xyro—”, Seressa stammered.
“—One, yes, dear girl. I am her and Ad Ara.”, the angelic figure smiled.
“Wha.. what do you mean ‘thus she is..’?”, asked Seressa.
“Exactly what it says.. You spoke the prophecy and set the conditions for it; four people, a pretty gnomic prince and a pretty gnomic girl, those were the three conditions that you set, weren’t they? And it surprises you that they should come true? Considering it was you, who set yourself.. and three others, upon the path to make sure they did come true!”
“Hah!”, deadpanned Seressa, “I GOT you, didn’t I? As for the other, the prophecy said the four of us are to go there, and here we are, GOING THERE! How about that..”
“Last time you said there was some gnomic prince involved!”
“Did I? Well, if there is a pretty gnomic girl, stands to reason there ought to be a pretty gnomic prince, now shouldn’t there?”
Brom ‘Hoo booy’ed again!
Arcantonic frowned some more..
— for details, please read; Kocakarı Hikayesi (18+) —
“But.. I just said those to be with my friends..“, she repeated desperately.
“And with them you were.. For one hundred and eighty years.”, said Ad Ara kindly.
“Seressa, my dear, you off all people should know the power of.. WORDS..
Particularly when meddling them into a live Prophecy!
Of all the people involved, you alone knew the true power of prophecies and what they entailed, just as your Raven Queen did, which is why you chose Her as your patron, did you not?.. Your particular study of expertise was on prophecies back at the academy, was it not?”
It was time for your little sister pair to grow up.. You mothered her and nurtured her soul. You made her feel compassion for others, and more importantly, for herself..
You made her feel passion, to something.. to someone, even.. You made a good person out of a broken, hate-filled little gnome, who had the means, the skills, and the intelligence to become, in all likeliness, another Arcanton Mordenon.
It was no mere coincidence Nadine Graciousward, Alor’Nadien ne’s mother to be, found the very young Arcantonic, locked in the basement of Mordenon’s tower after she’d banished him; Arcanton was training her to be his progeny to keep his work going, should he ever come to an unexpected demise.
Mordenon was a driven, power-hungry gnome.. And evil, certainly, but he was also very cunning and a planner..
And yet, Nadine could not bring herself to destroy the little girl, marred by the very scent of demons in that awful place. Instead, she took her.. She showed her kindness. The kind she would show only to her own daughter, many years later. She took her to her family and made sure she was sent to the Academy of Melshieve to be properly trained and perhaps find friends there and willy-nilly, she found you!.. She even granted her with a full scholarship with two conditions; one was that she was never to be informed of this, hence, ensuring her a future free of obligations and two, a ‘Watchful Eye’ was to be set upon her, so no one would come after her for her uncles’ deeds. Yes, the ‘Eye’ was there to make sure she was safe, not so she stayed in line..
And now consider this;
One found a way to open a Demon Gate, introducing them to this world. The other found Astral Travel.. Can you imagine the kind of things she could have done with that, had she been the little, angry, destructive person whom you’d first met and not the girl who actually fell in love with another being, had it not been for you?
Does it surprise you to know that this might have been the real wrong that you had to right, and you did?
For decades she studied astral physics and tried engineering a way to travel it and to survive it..
And mind you; not for any kind of materialistic gains nor for the kind of power it would have given her over mortals, the way her uncle, Mordenon did, but merely for a way to get back to him.. to another being.. After so many years of trying and toil, you finally made that girl feel empathy and a need to connect with others; you, him, your elf, and even the hobbit..
And to Nadine’s own daughter, Alor’Nadien ne..
The way the circle got so completely closed is.. mind staggering..
Do you see the significance in all of this? And the significance of what you did?
And all for something as simple and as great as love..
Funny how they would fight and squabble on a daily basis, even after having lived and suffered such impossible odds.
But such is love.. And life.
Because of your nurturing soul, you gave your Tonic your love. In turn, she found love and happiness and gave him hers, and through them, many, many generations later, came one that became vital in the fight against darkness.
Consider this in your raging grief; that had your beloved Tonic not done what she had to get to her Gordigon, their great, great, great, great-grandson would not have been. And had he never been, Silent Hills would have still been ‘silent’ and evil would have won that day.. The other side knew this more than a millennia ago, which is why they set the ‘Demon Fog’ there; to make sure those hills stayed ‘silent’..”
The beautiful face of the angelic figure that hovered before the devastated form of Seressa turned mournful for she knew, what came next would bring this beasting, feral creature nothing but more of what she had;
And she spoke.
For there would be no giving any comfort today.
Only cruel ‘understanding’ would help raise the destruction before her.
“My dear, dear Seressa..”, she said, almost with a whisper. “I know how much you loved your pair as I was privileged to have witnessed it. What made your love so special, was it made her love as well.
It made her happy..
You should have seen her face when she beheld her firstborn; a beautiful little baby girl she named ‘Seressa Ton Wraiven’ and she was all but glowing with happiness.
I know, for I was there..
Now I would ask but one question to you;
Was it your intent and condition that she be thus happy only with you, and with you alone?”
Seressa just stared at Ad Ara..
..and tears of a desperate loss appeared in her eyes, for now, at the very end, she understood the very core of her own fall; that the only way she could have kept her pair was to selfishly love and cherish only the presence of the angry, hate-filled girl, who, in all fairness, would have abandoned her.
Or perhaps, and against all odds, kept her, she might have, but never to have shown her the love she felt for her? Never to have given it to her? That same love and compassion that she’d shown and given her so freely through thick and thin, gales and gallows, these past near two centuries.. For had she not, their bond just wouldn’t have survived any gales, nor any gallows..
At that moment, Seressa fully understood the dilemma, the paradox of her predicament; one way or another, she was doomed to lose her pair no matter what and that understanding truly, unequivocally, irrevocably and unmendably broke her..
“But she’s gone. And I am never seeing her face, never hearing her voice again..”, she sobbed.
“Your want for her presence still keeps you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all, Seressa..”, the angelic form said softly.
Seressa felt numb.
“IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!“
And with that harsh lesson given, Ad Ara Xyrone was gone..
✱ ✱ ✱
The cottage had been scrubbed clean and was barely livable again though it still needed a lot of manual repairs and Seressa would rather ‘that roof quit leaking’.
It had been a bit over a month since Ad Ara had visited her in the woods. Since then, she had picked herself up, dragged herself back to the devastation that was her soul, and her home.
“Another is on the way, beloved Seressa. Prepare yourself and your home. Your work in this world is not done yet..”, Ad Ara’s voice had silently echoed in her mind after she’d left.
To that end, she had come back to this cottage and wept and cleared the wreck and debris of her soul and of her home, mindlessly scrubbing clean everything that would remind her of her pair. She had considered burning the weather-worn, barn-sized workshop of her pair, down into the ground, and had even gone there with a burning torch in her hand..
..and had just stood there for hours, unable to bring herself to destroy the remains and the reminders of her Tonic.
Seressa had scraped very near insanity that evening..
✱ ✱ ✱
Six years had passed since the day Tonic had left and barely over two since Seressa had returned back to her cottage.. Brom had come to visit her once. “Hey, you..”, he’d said, then literally barged into her kitchen and whipped up a course worthy of some princes’ if not kings, prepared the table, and force-fed the catatonic and drooping form of Seressa.
He had silently wept as he washed the near skeletal remains of the woman he’d dearly loved and cared, cleaned her, groomed her hair, put her pinks on her, and laboriously dug a stretching garden right in front of her cottage and planted pink roses, creeping phloxes, and several young cherry saplings. In under a few weeks, the desolate dirt would be washed in pinks and teaming with life. Given this time next year, the cherries would blossom, turning Seressa’s broken life, into a ‘home’..
Brom knew all about gardens..
He stayed with her for a few more weeks, promised to come back, “to check in on the garden”, he’d said, and left.
Then Inshala had come with a very ‘beautiful’ looking young boy that was sure to break any number of hearts; her son!
The little boy she had seen six years ago had grown so tall..
He certainly had taken his eyes, his nose, his mouth, and overall beauty from her mother, but he had very dark hair and thick, dark eyebrows, the parts he had gotten from his father, making the total combination that really would wreak havoc among girls.
Seressa could just imagine the young, not quite man, strolling in one of the parks in the academy, with a whole horde of girls lusting after him.
She certainly would have.
What really made him so sweet was that the boy was totally clueless about it all..
Like the caretaker of nature she’d been since the day she could barely walk, Inshala took care of Seressa, and brought her back from the edges of the insanity she’d been flirting for the past six years.
She came, she gave the pink garden a single glance, she smiled and she said, “Dear Brom..”
..and every single rose, every single phlox bloomed. The slender saplings decided they couldn’t be bothered to wait, and certainly couldn’t be bested by some dirt hugging flowers, and they too bloomed..
In the space of an afternoon, Salt Woods turned into a pale, tender tone of pink..
Then Aager came.
It was strange to see this predator of a human, still looking not a day older than twenty-five..
He came, he embraced his blushing Inshala and he took his son to long walks while his wife nurtured Seressa.
It was stranger seeing a very boyish smile on that man’s face.
The one he had given to his wife.
And yet, they hadn’t said a single word to one another..
Cora visited her as well. And then Brom again.
Then a wisp of a girl she thought she had never met before came to her. She introduced herself as Komoberi Anthea, a wood elf druid from Dream Woods just south east..
She claimed she was ‘just being neighborly’. She had a soft, whispering sort of voice that made you want to lean over to hear and Seressa thought even a mild breeze could very well carry her away.
The girl seemed to have made camp somewhere out in the woods and she came and went every day for weeks on end.. and when she came, the forest slowly turned into soft shades of green.
“I wish I could do pink too. I am afraid, however, all I have to offer is green..”, said Anthea pointing shyly at her own wispy green hair “Pink is nice, but green is kinder and less demanding.”
Seressa knew when someone wanted something from her and this green-haired willow of a girl definitely wanted something, but after testing the elves’ patience with a very unseressa like attitude, the girl finally admitted what she wanted;
“Nothing but your well being..”, she’d whispered softly..
Seressa suspected Inshala’s or even Ad Ara’s hand in sending this frail girl to look after her. It was so much like them to poke their nose and to meddle with her affairs..
The only problem with that was;
She had no affairs.. at all..
..in fact, she had nothing.
And the reminder of that lone fact broke her all over again..
✱ ✱ ✱
The hooves of horses and the clatter of a wagon approached.
Seressa was up on the roof, desperately banging at the tiles in hopes that they’d really quit leaking, already!
Tonic could have done that in less than an hour..
..come to think of it, she had, many years ago.
Seressa was in no mood for any visitors.
The last batch had been a band of ruffians wanting to take ‘whatever’ they could get their hands on from ‘that girl who lived alone in the woods’.
They made excellent fertilizers now..
She came sliding off the roof and prepared to do some highly illegal and likely very dangerous things to whoever was coming.
“Hello, home!”, shouted a slightly tenoric, male voice. “We are looking for a Seressa Wraiven, known to be living in these parts of Salt Woods.”
“Looking for a Seressa Wraiven, are you? Well, found her you have..”, she said a bit uncharitably.
If the little man sitting on top of the wagon, drawn by two draft horses was taken aback by her attitude, he didn’t show it.
He smiled toothily and Seressa recognized him.
It had been many decades since the last time she saw the little man, who wasn’t really a little man, but a gnome.
“King Tinkerdome..”, she said. “You are a long way from Silent Hills and your entourage seems to have lost you.”
“Shhh..”, said the King of Silent Hills, conspiratorially.
“..I am incognito and have brought no entourage. I have, however, brought someone for you..”, he said a bit resigned, turned around, and called into the wagon.
“Oi.. Menace.. Wake up! Up up up! Off the wagon, you little bugger! You are at the end of your rope. Get up and get off my wagon.. Look sharp and eyes front!.”
Something yawned inside the wagon, scrambled and grumbled, and possibly cussed, and got off the wagon.
She was a small thing.
She was a bit on the pale side with deep, chocolate brown eyes and had dark honey hair..
And she looked like a coin-sized version of her Tonic..
“Whot?”, the little thing squeaked and Seressa’s eyes teared. She sounded so much like her Tonic too! She could literally pick her up, put her in her coin purse, and carry her around all day..
King Gnine ‘Ninehundredandnightynine’ Tinkerdome glared at the little gnomic girl, then turned at Seressa and looked at her apologetically.
“I am sorry this will inconvenience you, dear Seressa, but I was told.. ordered, really, to bring this little brat over to you for training and.. well.. ‘dressing up for society’, would be a polite way to put it, if I were addressing the public.”
The little gnomic girl sneered up at her King.
“This here is Terra ’10K’ Tonic. You may call her ‘Tee’, ‘TK’, ‘KT’, ‘Ten-K’ or just ‘menace!’, because that’s exactly what she is..”, Gnine glared back at the little, pint-sized girl.
“You are one to talk.”, spat back the girl!
“She is also my niece as payment for my past sins, and..”, Gnine said turning to Seressa, “..as you can see, what we have here is a failure to communicate, and she speaks a language no one can understand! if you get my meaning. I have been told, by ‘higher authorities’, that you were exceptional with head cases like this. I don’t mind exceptional, but I would really settle for fair..”
Though Gnine was trying to put on an optimistic face, it was obvious he’d long lost all hope.
Seressa just looked at Gnine..
..and at the little, minute creature.
It seemed the heavens did have an odd sense of humor!
“Tonic..?”, she whispered like she’d just seen a ghost. “How?”
“‘Tonic’ will do too, I suppose..”, said King Gnine, then he got off of the wagon, walked up behind it, grabbed something that appeared large and heavy and carried it over to Seressa and dumped it at her feet.
“I am a wizard and all, but somethings, not even I can understand. This old chest was found hidden deep inside the old archives, lost during the ‘Demon Fog’.
Every day we dig up things left behind centuries ago.. Some go as far back as the first Themalsar War. When we found this particular chest, we couldn’t open it. The only thing we could find out was it originally belonged to one of the queens of old Silent Hills, though we could find no reference to her at all.. Nor anything that would identify her. When we tried disarming and disenchanting spells, we only got this..”, he said and turned the chest around..
..and there, written on the front side of the chest was;
“GALES AND GALLOWS”
“Well, as odd as that seemed, we were just going to put it into our new archive vaults when a certain angelic personage decided to visit and told us who the chest was addressed to, and while at it, we could also bring along a certain little menace to her as well.. Seemed like a good idea, then.. Seems like a good idea, now.. and getting better by the minute..”, he smirked at the little girl.
The look the little gnome gave him was nothing short of baleful.
Seressa could hardly stand as all traces of life seemed to drain from her.
She folded down in front of the chest and with blurry eyes, she whispered;
“Gales and Gallows, luv, Gales and Gallows..”
A strange, mechanical sort of voice came from the chest;
> Voice Activation Required.
> Voice Recognition Protocol activated.
> Access confirmed…
> Hello, Seressa Wraiven, Strongest Pair!
And with that, a rusty clank and a sharp hiss of air, the lid of the chest creaked open.
“What the—?”, exclaimed the little Tonic, peering into the chest. After a while and with total bafflement, she said, “It’s just.. crappy old junk!”
“Yes.. and no..”, cried Seressa. “They are.. MEMORIES.. they are what makes us.
Seressa stared at all the old, out of date items inside the chest;
Many pieces of strange tools, gadgets, and contraptions were in the chest, including an old, handmade set of goggles, a very old, elegantly crafted lantern, a collapsible spear, a worn-out alchemist’s satchel, many letters and scrolls, a worn hammer and a wrench, and a tiny, semi-transparent box that had been made to hold two, very small, oval-shaped items but there was only one, dark green, round, smooth, marble-like stone in it while it’s pair seemed missing.
One item, in particular, caught her attention.
It was probably the oldest thing in the chest; a worn book with re-worked and re-binded covers. It was, in fact, not really a book, but a hand-prepared dossier, watermarked with the arrogant symbol of the Academy of Melshieve on it.
Seressa recognized her own, elegant and recursive handwriting..
It was the dossier she had prepared, some one hundred and eighty plus years ago for Arcantonic to read. It was all and everything about herself. She’d never gotten around to actually giving it to her pair and had thought she’d lost it somewhere, during her travels, many, many years ago..
“Did you..? Did you burglarize me, luv?”, she laughed and she wept, holding the worn-out dossier close to her chest, and her heart..
“Oww, my dear Tonic, you took it, you read it and you kept it safe.. You gave me, back to me..”, she wept shamelessly and happily as she reached into the chest again and took out the little, dark green stone..
King Gnine grabbed his little niece by the scuff of her neck and dragged her away, tactfully giving the weeping girl some much-needed privacy.
“Whot, damit?”, scowled the little gnome.
“You brought me here? To this? She is as weird as a toe ring and mad as a hatter! And what’s with all the creepy pinks anyway? Who wears laced pink now? And that dress! I can see too much of her, and I am not even trying!”
“True..”, said Gnine. “..but she owns your little arse now!”, he added with an evil smile..
“I’ll be rid of her soon ‘nuf.”, shrugged the little Tonic.
“And I’ll set your Auntie Laila on you, again. Just you remember how that ended! Now imagine what she will do to you if she has to come all the way down here to find you.. But by all means, don’t let me nix you!”, Gnine laughed evilly at the little gnome.
Tonic remembered what her Auntie Laila had done very well. Of all the people she had encountered, Auntie Laila was the only person she hadn’t been able to cute her way out of. When she’d run off, the Ranger Marshal had come and she’d found her like she’d put her there herself.
And then she’d trashed her..
Tonic scowled some more because she still felt her little butt hurt every time that particular memory was reminded to her.
Apparently, there was no messing with the rangers of Serenity Home City and certainly not with Auntie Laila!
While little Tonic mulled over her evil auntie, her own sad little butt, and her predicament, Gnine glanced at the very tall, very dark, and the very weeping girl, clutching a folder of some sort in one hand and something small enough to fit in her palm, in the other. He could clearly see the pain in the shapeless lump of the girl, crumbled on the ground crying uncontrollably and without any decorum.
He’d known Seressa Wraiven and he remembered her as one of the most glamorous women he’d ever seen, par to even their Alor’Nadien ne.. Something must have happened between the time he’d last seen her and now.. Something terrible and probably very recent, for this broken creature bawling in the dirt, was so very unlike her previous, glorious self.
When he looked at her, all he saw was the sight of sentient devastation; shattered and broken, damaged and scarred, deserted, desolate and in shambles, mindlessly feral and extremely volatile..
The King of Silent Hills turned to his little niece and spoke to her with the kind of gravity that he reserved only for situations as somber as;
‘THEN WE SHALL MAKE WAR UPON THEM!‘
“In all our long and painful history of Silent Hills, that mad hatter in pinks is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to us.. By all means, little girl, disrespect Seressa Wraiven at your own peril!”
Crumbled face down on the ground, clutching the ragged remains of her old dossier, her old memories, her old life, and her old self, even, Seressa felt broken..
..and miserably happy.
It was like something woefully pitiful, and yet, something that meant a world of joy for her had been given back to her.
She clung to that old thing like she had clung to her pair just before she’d opened the astral gate and walked through..
And that is when she heard the crackling noise.
It sounded as if someone was walking on dried leaves just outside her window or walking on eggshells, cracking them and messing her kitchen floor, or perhaps her Tonic was balling a stiff parchment just next room.
It was unintelligible at first, but soon enough, it formed words..
..said a barely audible, somewhat raspy voice from the dark green, marble-like stone in her palm.
Tonic: “Will we die, just a little, then?”
— is a near direct quote from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, where Grindelwald says this to Newt, after he is caught.
Tonic: “..But the possibility of successfully navigating an astral field is approximately three thousand seven hundred and twenty to one!”
— is a near direct quote from Star Wars, ep. 5, Empire Strikes Back, where C3PO says this to Han Solo as they dive into an asteroid field with the Millennium Falcon.
Tonic: “..Tell her.. tell her, ‘The ones who love us will miss us..'”
— is a direct quote from Keanu Reeves when he said it during an interview with Stephen Colbert.
When Colbert asked:
“What do you think happens when we die, Keanu Reeves?”
Keanu thought for a while and replied:
“I know that the ones who love us will miss us.”
Ad Ara: “Your want for her presence still keeps you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all, Seressa..”, the angelic form said softly.
Seressa felt numb.
“IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!“
And with that harsh lesson given, Ad Ara Xyrone was gone..
— is a near quote from Dr. Strange where he talks with the dying spirit of The Ancient One:
The Ancient One: Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.
Dr. Stephen Strange: Which is?
The Ancient One: It’s not about you.
Gnine: “Well..”, Gnine said turning to Seressa, “..as you can see, what we have here is a failure to communicate, and she speaks a language no one can understand if you get what I mean. I have been told, you were good with head cases like her.”
— “What we have here is failure to communicate..”, is a reference to Cool Hand Luke (1967)
A strange, mechanical sort of voice came from the chest;
> Voice Activation Required.
> VRC / Voice Recognition Protocol activated.
> Access confirmed…
> Hello, Seressa Wraiven, Strongest Pair!
— was a reference to Marvel’s, Thor Ragnarok “Strongest Avenger” Scene
“Looking for a Seressa Wraiven, are you? Well, found her you have..”, she said a bit uncharitably.
— Yoda, from Star Wars.
— the fictional character in Lewis Carroll’s 1865 book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland “