Writen for diluain, the theme: sin, violation against sacred.
The first version betaed by SlySionnach, the rewrite by Diluin; all the remaining mistakes are mine.
The wings, two transparent looking leaves, shivered in fear as the fly fought against the grey restraints of the silken threads. Each time it managed to tear a thread, a black blob rose on its long, thin legs and, circling around its prey, spun new ties to hold the fly down.
Sometimes she felt like that fly. The blue irises tore away from the spider's web and gazed at the floor below where on the wooden table they could see part of a naked leg and the wrinkled fabric of clothes.
Mindful of the squeaks of the semi-rotten planks, the owner of the eyes pushed herself further toward the hole of the dusty attic floor to see what was happening below. Not that she needed to see it; the throaty moans and gasps, and the musky smell of sweat told the story of wicked pleasure well enough.
Her hands dug into the wood, the splintered edge cut into the softness of her palm and a droplet of crimson red fell onto the grey stone floor below covered with debris. She hated it. Hated what Blaidd had to do to put coin into their pockets, not that Blaidd seemed to mind with the way he thrust into the body below him.
A movement in the corner of her eye tore her gaze away from rhythmical sway of hips over the broken brick furnace to the half-opened door that led into the pantry.
In the semi-darkness she could distinguish pants pooled around the thick, hairy ankles, the fisted outline of a hand under a shirt and a large, vest-clad belly, whose bulk told that the owner knew about the good life.
Yes, some people lived the good life and they weren't about to share it with the rest. She grimaced in distaste over man's actions, turned away and crawled backwards toward the narrow line at the side of the wall. She pushed through the hole and descended to the ground with the help of the creeper that dominated the south wall and the roof of the cottage.
She knelt down by the wall, just around the corner so she could see the cottage's entrance. With her back against the softness of the leaves, she waited. She looked at her palm where the traces of blood still lingered, but no cut marred the pale skin. She wiped her hand against the coarse fabric of her coat before she pulled from her pocket a palm-sized book. Her fingers played with the embossed wooden covers held together by leather ribbons. The title of the book was written in strange lines and curves, but she knew what they meant, as she could read the small, perfectly aligned words that filled the papyrus inside -- not the letters, just the meaning of the words. The only thing that could tell her who she had been before she woke up in the forest -- one town, three villages and five forests away -- with no memory and no possessions except the dark grey and olive green washed-out clothes and this little book in her pocket.
She heard the slam of the door and saw a slim back and golden, bobbed hair dancing in the breeze with the edges of a long, cotton shirt. A happy customer -- she still didn't know if it was a she or he - rushed down the path that wove through the high grey-green grass and fleecy bushes to the small village nested in the valley below. Soon a fat, short man stumbled thorough the cottage door and cautiously followed the blonde. The third time the door's planks hammered together opened, a tall brunet with wide shoulders walked through them.
"Here." Eira pocketed the booklet and slung the bag with her things over her shoulder, but stayed sitting on the ground, knowing that Blaidd would come to her.
Blaidd turned around the corner and stopped before Eira. "Are you sulking again?"
"You stink." Of sex and of sweat, and Eira could even smell that person's perfume still clinging to Blaidd's clothes. She hated it.
"But I got us money." Blaidd squatted before Eira and reached out.
Eira jumped up and darted out of Blaidd's reach. "Don't touch me with your filthy hands."
Blaidd sighed and combed his fingers through his short brown hair. "These filthy hands are going to pay for your dinner and lodging." The corners of his lips curved into a mischievous grin and a spark of naughtiness flashed in his chocolate brown eyes. "If you are good, that is."
"I don't appreciate your jokes." Eira turned the corner and with her back to Blaidd, she pulled the hood of her dirty brown coat farther over her head. She knew she was acting unreasonably -- she knew that very well -- but she just couldn't help herself. Blaidd stood up for her when people ganged up on her because of her appearance and it was Blaidd who had taken pity on her and taken her under his wing. Eira knew that, but to watch this proud and soft-hearted man soil his soul with foul deeds to fill Eira's belly, to put a roof over Eira's head, for Eira... She looked over her shoulder at Blaidd, her brows furrowed low over her eyes. "I'm sorry. I'm behaving like a spoiled child."
"I don't mind indulging you." Blaidd stood up and stepped behind Eira. "And besides, we had a good harvest. My customer left me a big tip and even though the peeking gentleman at first refused to pay, thinking that just because he wasn't directly invited, the show was for free, I managed to get quite a large sum from him."
"I wish there was another way to earn money."
"You refuse to steal."
"I meant by honest means." Eira rolled her eyes. There was no way she would steal. She understood that they needed to eat, but she couldn't even snatch a piece of bread when one seduced her rumbling stomach, not with whispers of in her mind preaching about damnation and everlasting fire that would lick at her bones.
"We tried that. You remember what happened: they tried to swindle us. That mill owner even called his dogs on us at the end of the day," Blaidd said. "Now, tell me, what is more condemnable, a person who steals from somebody who has, to fill his hunger, or the person who steals from people who have nothing, to fill his greed?"
"You know the answer." Even though, sadly, the former were the only ones receiving the punishment for their deeds when caught. Eira looked at the small village in the distance, at the houses with straw-thatched roofs and mud-walls gathered around a small church and a two tall brick houses: the major's house, tavern and dosshouse in one. Everything looked faded and worn out; even the blue of the sky, which looked more grey, and the light of the sun gave her the feeling of a cloudy day. But it wasn't. And she couldn't remember the last time she had seen the sun in all its splendour. Or the blue sky. Or even the green grass. The only thing that didn't lose colour was Blaidd with his hair and eyes of warm brown that shone like a polished chestnut. "I don't want to return to the village."
"I heard that there are a couple of lodging houses along the way. We will rest there, then." Blaidd put his hand on Eira's shoulder.
Eira shivered and moved away from Blaidd, but the burn of his touch still lingered in the spot where Blaidd rested his fingers.
"You are too sensitive." Blaidd chuckled at her before he went inside the house and when he appeared again he had a large bag on his shoulder. "Let's go."
Their feet in thick-soled, second-hand shoes followed the path that led to the village until the crossroad, where Blaidd choose the path to the right. The path led deeper into the mainland and toward the Dayyan river, Blaidd's goal, and since Eira had nowhere to go, she followed.
They stopped at the stream with a small waterfall so Blaidd could get rid of the grime and change his clothes.
Eira in the meanwhile tried to busy herself with flipping through her book, but her eyes had a mind of their own. She too often found her gaze wandering over Blaidd's wide shoulders, toned chest and flat abdomen, a blush appearing on her face and warmth pooling in the pit of her stomach every time her eyes slipped lower. What was wrong with her? She knew she liked Blaidd very much, but to be attracted to him... She turned her back to Blaidd and through the leafless treetops looked at the grey sky. Maybe the sky had always been blank like this and the baby blue she remembered and the yellow shining ball that could pulse orange and red in the morning and evening were just a part of her dreams.
Her breath hitched and she blinked. She saw the sky burning, red flames and soot as the dark grey clouds became even darker with their edges falling down like black, scorched paper. She stood up and turned toward Blaidd, who was already pulling on clothes. Couldn't he see that? She looked back at the sky and frowned when it was the same blank grey. She rubbed her forehead. That had to be just a figment of her imagination, but the claws of cold dread stayed wedged in the pit of her stomach.
"Eira, are you ready?"
Eira nodded and picked up her bag. When she came closer to Blaidd, her cold hand curled around Blaidd's as if his warmth could disperse the strange images that the vision of burning sky had awakened.
They returned to the main road. The gravel crunched under their feet, mile after mile, until twilight fell and they arrived at a wooden building with barns set by the road. The metal sign with the name of the inn and a written welcome hung on the short pole above the large plank door. They went inside and Eira waited in the shadows by the stairs that led to a hallway with rooms for rent. She watched Blaidd going to the swinging doors that had to led to the kitchen, where he talked with a man in a stained apron, probably to rent a room and to make arrangements for dinner.
A few patrons sat at the tables scattered across the room, most with mugs of ale in their hands, and Eira moved so that she wasn't in their direct view. The warmth of the fire cracking in the fireplace across the room slowly seeped through her clothes to her chilled skin.
A young, stout girl with an earthenware pitcher full of water, and two bowls on her tray appeared by Eira's side and gestured for her to follow her. "Your friend already paid for everything and he said he's going to join you later."
Eira nodded and followed her up the stairs, across the narrow semi-dark hallway and through the door the girl unlocked with keys that hung on a string around her waist. After the girl turned on the light, Eira looked around the small and modestly furnished room, which housed a bed, a low cabinet with a missing drawer, a small table and two chairs. She went to the bed and touched the linen. In the light of the gas lamp hanging above the foot of the bed, she could see that the worn and torn fabric looked surprisingly clean.
"We don't have double beds, and your friends said that a one-bed room was okay." The girl put the tray on the table, and when the table shifted under the weight of the tray, she bent and from her pocket pulled something that looked like a damp, old newspaper. She folded it, put it under the table leg and stood up, her arms akimbo. "That will have to do."
Eira stepped closer to the table and the pot, her mouth watering at the smell of cooked meat and vegetables. Her stomach growled.
"You must be hungry." The girl took the pitcher toward the cabinet and put it on the smooth surface. From the middle drawer she pulled a wide, porcelain bowl and thin towels, and she put them on the cabinet. She poured the steaming water from the pitcher into the bowl. "The toilet is at the end of the hallway. There's also a tub, but if you want to take a bath, you have to tell me and I'll arrange hot water for you."
"I see. Thank you, but I won't be taking a bath." Eira went toward the bowl. She waited until the girl gave her a small smile and left the room before she removed her hood and took off her coat, which she put over the back of the chair. She washed her hands in the bowl before she sat behind the table and poured hot stew in the plate. A first mouthful and Eira's taste buds melted in delight, but instead of enjoying the food, Eira shovelled it into her mouth until the food warmed her from inside out and she felt so full that if she took another spoonful, she would burst.
She leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes in contentment.
Somebody knocked on the door. It opened and the girl stepped in before Eira could snatch the coat from the chair and drape it around her shoulders or pull the hood over her head.
The girl stopped in her tracks and the basket of bread she carried fell to the ground. "A Pure One."
Great. Eira set the coat back on the chair. "No, not a Pure One. Just albino."
"I have never seen anybody with such white hair and skin. You have to be a Pure One. Can I touch you?" She strode toward Eira and her hand hovered over Eira's head as if she were waiting for permission.
"If your hands are clean."
"Yes, you are a Pure One." The girl touched her white, shoulder-length hair, combing through it. "That's why your friend asked for the Dayyan River. He probably wants to send you to Edhen. I would like to go there too, but..." Her arm fell by her side, a sad smile playing on her lips. "The river's current would probably toss me back on the shore or sink me to Sheol's depths. And anything is better than that, even living on Sheol's edge, in the Realm of Dead."
The crossing? Edhen? Sheol? The Realm of the Dead? The names sounded familiar to Eira, but what was the girl talking about? She wasn't dead... She couldn't be. Not when... When what? Eira couldn't understand the fragments of images that, like pieces of a puzzle, twirled in her mind. The light... So much light...
"Is your friend coming, too?" the girl asked. "Do you have the power to help him over? Would you take me with you, too? Take me with you, please."
"I don't know what you are talking about," Eira finally said. The images dancing inside her faded and disappeared into the dust of forgetfulness.
"What do you mean, you don't know?" The girl leaned over Eira and grimaced. "You just don't want to take me with you, do you?"
"No, really. I don't know what you are talking about." Eira pressed herself against the back of the chair. The Realm of the Dead? She was dead? She frowned; a wave of panic slammed into her, but she overcame it with slow and deep breathing, focusing on the beating of her heart. When had that happened? But it would explain her healing powers, wouldn't it?
"You don't think I'm worthy, do you?" The girl snarled at Eira, exposing yellow teeth.
Even though the girl seemed as if she were going to have a fit, Eira wasn't afraid of her, just as she wasn't afraid of the boys that pulled her hair, punched her and kicked her and from whom Blaidd had saved her. Eira refused to be involved in violence, even though not fighting back and patiently suffering somehow made people even more violent. Not that it mattered. The pain was always short and her cuts and bruises could heal in mere seconds.
The girl raised her hands, her face becoming hyena-like before she swung her arm and her palm made a red imprint on the whiteness of Eira's skin.
Eira sighed, not even bothering to cover her burning cheek. Why did people get so irritated around her? She glanced at the girl, who looked like she was going to hit her again, but then the door opened and Blaidd walked in. Her saviour. Again.
The girl moved away from Eira and stared at her right hand.
Blaidd rushed to Eira and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, glaring at the girl. "What have you done?"
"I'm sorry," the girl stuttered, her gaze shifting between her hand and Eira. "I don't know what came over me."
"Get out and stay out." Blaidd didn't raise his voice, but it managed to cut through the air like a whip.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." The girl's gaze dropped down and she rushed out of the room.
Blaidd's fingertips brushed against the marred skin. "What is it with you that people lose their temper so quickly?"
Eira frowning looked up.
"I'm not trying to blame you." Blaidd squatted down before Eira and leaned his elbows on Eira's knees. "But that girl didn't look like a bully, nor did the people that bullied you before." His hand touched Eira's side. "And those boys that attacked you. They seemed afraid of you."
"I don't know why they get so angry." Eira buried her fingers into Blaidd's brown strands. "And why you aren't." She caught Blaidd's hair between her fingers, pressed them tightly together and tugged on the hair. "And you have been keeping things from me." Her voice sounded slightly offended, but she didn't feel upset. Well, maybe just a little. "We are in the Realm of Dead? I'm dead? We are all dead? And you haven't told me that."
"How could I tell you: 'Hey, by the way, you are dead?'" Blaidd's hand glided up and he cupped Eira's cheek. "And I'm not sure that's true about you. You are not like the rest of us. You even feel different. I think you don't carry the burden of your deeds like we do."
"What does that mean?"
"That you don't belong here." Blaidd wrapped his free arm around Eira's waist. "I don't know how you even ended up down here. This realm is just for corrupted souls."
Eira hugged herself. "So that girl was correct. You are trying to get rid of me." Why did that hurt so much? "You are going to that river so that you can send me away!" She tried to wiggle out of Blaidd's hold and out of the chair, but Blaidd refused to let her.
"That's not true. I'm not going to get rid of you." Blaidd caressed the side of Eira's face. "I'm going to that river because of a myth. If you cross it, you get another chance and you can be reborn. And since we will already be there... You don't belong here."
Eira averted her gaze.
"Eira, look at me, please."
Eira refused to look into Blaidd's eyes, the eyes of the man who intended to turn his back on her and to betray her so cruelly. She rubbed her temple. When had she gotten so attached to Blaidd?
"Please, just look at me."
Eira did, reluctantly.
"Since I heard about the chance of redemption, of getting out of this blank world, I've been trying to get to that river. Stumbling over you, getting to know you, it's the best thing that's happened since I died, and as much as I would like to stay with you... I need to be born again and this time I need to live right." Blaidd's hands found Eira's. "And I have no intention of leaving you behind."
"Take me with you then."
"Why would you want to live in the tangible world, when you could go directly to Edhen?"
"To be with you."
"Even if you cross the river with me, we might end up on different sides and live our lives without meeting."
"I want to cross the river with you," Eira said, the stubbornness shining in her pale blue eyes.
"Okay then, have it your way. Just don't complain to me afterwards." Blaidd stood up and tousled Eira's white hair. "You silly girl."
Eira slapped Blaidd's hand away. "Don't call me that."
Blaidd's lips curved into a charming, naughty smile, his hand slid behind Eira's neck, cupping it as he bent down and pressed his lips against Eira's forehead. "You are too sensitive." He straightened. "Now, go to bed. You are tired."
Eira caught Blaidd's wrist. There were some things she needed to know. "Blaidd?"
"When you arrived here, had you lost your memory like I did?"
"No, I hadn't. I remember my previous life and how I died quite clearly."
"I see." Eira wrinkled her forehead. Something bothered her. Something that Blaidd said before. What was it? Oh, yeah: 'This realm is just for corrupted souls'. But if that was true... Blaidd hadn't felt like a corrupted soul to her, not even when she knew about and saw with her own eyes Blaidd lying, stealing and using his body to get what he wanted. "Have you... What did you do that you ended up here?"
"I followed orders, I tortured and killed people."
Another flophouse, another modestly furnished room and another cheap bed that creaked under Eira's shifting and turning.
Eira turned sideways to look at Blaidd, who, lying on his side facing her, slept like a baby. Eira rolled around and put one hand under her head while she touched Blaidd's face with the other. Tomorrow they would reach the Dayyan; just half a day's walk separated them from it.
Her fingers slid over Blaidd's jaw. She thought about persuading Blaidd to change his mind, but Blaidd seemed so determined about his objective that Eira doubted that her words would sway his decision. But she wished she could. "I want to stay with you forever." And she meant it. She inched closer, nestled against Blaidd's chest and wrapped her arm around Blaidd's shoulder. I love you.
Eira pulled herself higher on the pillow until her nose touched Blaidd's. She didn't know when her love had started to bloom, or what it was that started it, but it was there, in her heart, shining like a freshly polished jewel.
Brown eyelashes brushed against the skin and opened, revealing warm brown eyes that sleepily blinked before a smile appeared on Blaidd's face. "Good morning."
"Good morning." Eira smiled back.
Blaidd rolled them over so that he now lay on top of Eira. He brushed white tassels away from Eira's forehead and cheeks, then lowered his face. His lips touched Eira's and a tongue darted out and wetted the seam of her mouth.
Eira tilted her head and opened herself to the blissful, wet caress. A first kiss from Blaidd. She had imagined it, dreamed about it, afraid that she would never be able to experience it. They never talked about how Eira felt about Blaidd, or how Blaidd felt about her, but Blaidd treated her like his little sister. But Eira wasn't a child, far from it.
Blaidd's hand sneaked under Eira's thin shirt and trailed up her side.
Eira wrapped her arms around Blaidd's neck, pressed closer, then spread her legs and wove them around Blaidd's narrow hips. Her head spun, and everywhere Blaidd touched her skin burned, but not painfully as those times when Blaidd's deeds still lingered on his fingers -- no, this time the burn brought a wicked pleasure and the urge to feel more.
Blaidd ended the kiss and rocked his hips.
A soft gasp escaped Eira's mouth. She pushed up her lower body, raw bliss zigzagging under her skin.
Blaidd froze above her, his lust-filled eyes blinked and his face became serious. "I'm so sorry." He scrambled away from Eira, taking the yellow sheet and thin blanket with him.
"Come back." She reached out for him. "Please."
Blaidd moved back, he leaned on his elbow beside Eira and his fingers slid over her profile. "You look so beautiful with your white hair framing your pale face -- even though, have you noticed? You are getting some colour in your cheeks and your hair is getting a golden tone at its tips." He rolled a strand of white hair around his finger. "But the rest of it is still white as a snow. That's why I started to call you Eira. It means snow."
Eira wrapped her arm around Blaidd's shoulder and pulled him down.
"No." He removed her arm.
"Why?" Eira furrowed her brows. He didn't want her. Blaidd didn't want her. "Usually you don't even care who you do it with as long as -- do you want money?"
"Eira." Blaidd caressed Eira's cheek. "I'm not going to soil your pure soul."
"I want you to."
"No." Blaidd pressed a quick, chaste kiss on Eira's trembling lips. "I have done too much evil in my life already and I'm hoping for redemption. I can't do something that's going to weigh on my conscience."
"Love is not a sin, never." Eira pulled herself in a sitting position. "And even if it was, what about all the stealing and lying that you have done?" "
"Look at you, getting upset. Haven't seen that side of you." Blaidd's hand slid over her shoulder. "You look cute."
"You don't call me cute, I'm anything but, I'm -" What? The word was on the tip of Eira's tongue; she could almost taste the word that defined her, a fleeting thought that disappeared from her mind in a flash.
"You are what?"
"I can't remember." Eira looked through the window at the sky that was slowly becoming brighter.
"Eira." Blaidd's fingers took hold of Eira's jaw and he forced her to meet his gaze.
"What?" Eira glared at Blaidd.
"I love you, too." Blaidd's smile shone down on Eira.
"I never said that."
"Yes, you did, I heard it between the lines." Blaidd flicked her nose and then pulled himself up. "Now, get up, it's time to go."
They got out of the bed, got dressed, packed and after a quick breakfast they left the small, empty inn.
Blaidd led them through the forest in a south-west direction where they should, according to the owner of their last lodging, find a narrow paved path.
They had trouble finding it, but they did in the end. It was hidden under forest plants, with grass and dry leaves covering the stones.
"Everybody seems to know about this river, but why doesn't anybody try for redemption, too?" Eira followed Blaidd close behind. "I would expect them to crowd its bank."
"I think that they are afraid of their own corruption. That they are lying to themselves. That they are here because of a mistake or that, since they found themselves on edge of Sheol, not in its centre, their sins are only minor ones." Blaidd pushed a heavy branch out of the way, waiting for Eira to pass before he released it. "But admitting that they need redemption would uncover that lie, so it's probably easier to slowly fade away. Maybe that's why your pale skin and white hair angers them. Your appearance probably reminds them of the blackness of their souls. "
"And it doesn't remind you?"
"I came to terms with my black soul before I died. I'm not telling myself that what I did wasn't wrong. I know that it was and I accepted that I would be punished for it, but instead of arriving in Sheol, I found myself on its edge." Blaidd wrapped his hand around Eira's and smiled at her before he turned forward again. "And Sheol's edge is pretty boring, so I'll take any sort of deliverance that I can get."
"It's not fair." Eira squeezed Blaidd's fingers. She had finally found him and now she was going to lose him.
"To who? To you?"
"You sound as if you are used to things always going your way. You are spoiled."
"Perhaps." Eira gaze's followed the path, and she frowned at how the trees' leaves looked lusher, greener and even the light that shone through the tops felt warmer, brighter.
The path led them out of the forest and into a meadow where the water rippled by them in vibrant blue and green tones, then -- upwards, disappearing in a spray, which should have fallen down, but no, it led up to the sky, and the scent of flowers and grass perfumed the air.
"It's beautiful," Eira breathed out. It reminded her of... of... home. Yes, home.
"What are you talking about?"
"It's filled with blood and pus and bones, and it stinks so horribly." Blaidd covered his nose with the edge of his sleeve.
"It's so clear that I can see the bottom." Eira released Blaidd's hand and walked to the river, shaking off Blaidd's hands that tried to stop her. She knelt down, captured the clean water in her hands and brought it back to Blaidd. "Does this look like blood?"
"No, but --" Blaidd frowned before he cautiously neared the river and quickly, as if he were avoiding some invisible monster, picked something from the river bank and dipped it into the water. He returned to Eira's side and showed her a polished bone, the blood still dripping from it. "It sort of makes sense, doesn't it?"
"Yes, it does."
"I guess swimming is out." Blaidd threw the bone away. "Even if I could evade those crocodiles, the piranhas would get me." He pointed at something. "Can you see how high they are? No, you probably don't see them."
"Can you see the other bank?"
"No," Blaidd said.
"I see. We better turn back, then."
"I'm not giving up."
Eira stood there, her eyes contemplating Blaidd. He was so determined -- such a shame -- that he looked willing to stake his soul's existence for it. She resignedly sighed. She knew a way for him to cross the river unharmed, had seen it the moment he showed her that bone. "Fine, then." She offered her hand to him. "You will have to follow me."
"Are you sure?" Blaidd curled his fingers around her hand. "What if the water changes into blood for you, too? And those piranhas and crocodiles, they shouldn't be taken lightly."
"Even if it that happens, my wounds heal quite fast. You saw it for yourself." Eira stepped closer to the river. She examined its surface, and noticed the changes in the reddish hue that shimmered over the clear water and in the shadows that here and there peeked between the soft waves. "What do you see?"
"It doesn't look so thick anymore. And the animals, they don't look so tangible any more. Well, at least those in our direct line don't."
Eira went toward the river pulling him with her. "My version of the river doesn't look deep. What about yours?"
"I have no idea."
"I would rather stay here with you." Eira's gaze caressed his face before she moved closer and lifted herself on her toes to close that little inch of height that separated them. She wrapped her free arm around his neck and her eyes fluttered closed as she pressed her lips against his. This could be their last kiss and she hoped that Blaidd wouldn't push her away.
Blaidd's hand slid up her back, he cupped her neck, tilted her head and pushed his tongue between her lips.
Eira breathed in contentment, delighting at the wet caress against her palate, gums and tongue. Blaidd was such an amazing kisser. She didn't know if she could actually compare or not, but his kiss left her breathless and dazed as if a pink, sugary cloud of cotton candy had filled her head.
Blaidd ended the kiss with a small peck, his fingers brushing her face.
Eira's tongue darted out to lick her lips. She sighed, her shoulders slumping. They had better be going before she changed her mind and refused to help Blaidd, begging him to stay instead. She stepped forward into the river, Blaidd right behind her.
The water was cold, its riverbed knee-high and its current quite fast, but not fast enough to pull them under the surface. But that only applied for Eira. Blaidd sank to his waist and shadows leaped at him, leaving torn fabric, bite marks and gashes on his skin, which he tolerated with a tensed jaw. The injuries might not be as deep as they would have been without her presence, but they were still there, making her heart clench in pain and sorrow.
Eira wrapped her arm around his shoulders, her stride more determined and fast. With the way Blaidd staggered behind her, the strength seemed to leave his body too quickly. And they weren't even halfway across, maybe not even a third of the way; she couldn't know for sure since she couldn't see the other bank. She wished they had a boat, but the myth said that souls had to cross the river on their own if they wanted salvation, and that the current would carry a boat straight to the centre of Sheol.
Blood gushed down Blaidd's upper body and even from his cheek and forehead. With each step he seemed to sway more and his arm around her middle started to lose its grip.
"We will not fail." Eira's voice sounded determined and firm, even when the fear and panic of losing Blaidd threatened to drown her in despair.
"Eira, maybe..." He looked up her, a small sad smile playing on his lips. "My legs... I don't know if I could..."
"No." She adjusted her grip on him until she almost dragged him with her. "I will not allow it. I won't." But her stubbornness couldn't stop him from sinking deeper into the river, didn't stop new gashes from appearing on his body, and no matter how firm her grip was, it couldn't stop him from slowly slipping from her hold.
"No." Sunk to her waist under the water, while he was neck deep, she couldn't go on any more, and even with her arms wrapped tightly around his body, the rapids pushed them around.
She fell and at that moment something tugged at Blaidd's body. It slipped from the embrace of her arms. "NO!" echoed over the surface as Eira in terror watched him disappearing under the surface of vibrant red, which turned into a clear blue as soon as the last bubble that floated on the surface burst. The current of the river slowed into a lazy roll.
"No!" She dived under the water, searching for him, but the only thing she could see was a patch of blackness that quickly reduced into a small dot and disappeared. She surfaced for much-needed air. "No. No. I love you."
A flash of light burst around her and Eira found herself kneeling on solid ground, with birds singing around her and the sun warming her back. She bent, her forehead touched the soft grass and she curled her hands. She had lost him. She had lost him. What was she going to do now? "I love you."
"Lucem Ferre, Daughter of Dawn, ye should love only thy Creator."
Eira looked up and saw a being dressed in white, with glowing skin and white wings on his back. She stood up, glaring at the creature.
The thing touched Eira's shoulder.
Her body grew, three pairs of white wings appeared on Eira's back, their weight curving her -- no, its shoulders, because Angels had no gender -- and memories slammed into its head - into its four heads, filling every corner of its minds. The battles, the blood, the thirst, the pride... and the light. It was a light-bearer and it knew why it had been on the edge of Sheol. They had taken its memories and its powers to teach it modesty, to lessen the pride and the feeling of superiority that its powers gave it.
Its eyes widened, all four pairs of them. It had power; it could get Blaidd out of Sheol. It spread its wings and with a powerful flap of its wings it rose up. It would just get the Creator's permission to descend to Sheol and to get Blaidd, but it would have to do it quick, because Blaidd's trail would be visible for only a short time before he was dragged down into Sheol's torture caves. After Sheol's demons got Blaidd in their hands, tracking him down would be much harder and who knew what those monsters would do to him?
The creature -- Eira could remember its name now -- Gabriel, a mere messenger, following it said something, but Eira choose to ignore it. It had things to do; It needed to talk to the Creator, it needed to tell Him about its love and to go down on its knees and beg permission to bring Blaidd back to its side.
With swings of its wings it rose and rose until it came to the centre universe then it turned east toward the kingdom of Edhen. It was almost at the puffs of clouds that hid the impenetrable marble walls when row after row of creatures similar to it appeared before the clouds, the steel glistening in the glow of their skin.
Eira growled. There was no time for this. Why were they even here? Move aside! Bow before me, because I'm Lucem Ferre, and my rank is higher than yours. It surged forward, trying to scatter their lines with sheer power, only to be tossed backwards. It glared at the serious faces that asked it to stand aside and calm down. But it hadn't time to calm down. It needed to dive into Sheol, to save Blaidd from the torture that was probably already being inflicted on him. It needed to see Creator, it needed to get His permission.
It attacked again, only to be repelled back.
Rage bubbled in Eira. Time was ticking away and these low angels refused to let it through to the Creator. How dared they? It needed more strength. And it knew how to get it. But it was forbidden, not that it cared at this point. It called out to the universe and drew power from it, Eira's whole being focused on that. It could feel its body twisting and changing.
It looked down and saw paws with claws instead of feet and hands, crimson red and dark grey scales instead of skin and when it touched one of its heads, it had a snout instead of nose and mouth. Eira roared, the sound vibrating through its dragon-like body, and it charged forward, its three pair of large bat wings creating storms and its long tail scattering the creatures with wings as if they were made of paper.
New creatures took place of the fallen, their bodies dressed in silver armour, their heads covered with silver helmets. They looked larger than life. Edhen's warriors.
Eira should probably have bowed its head in defeat at the sight of them, but love for Blaidd burned in its heart, hot and consuming, like a liquid fire it rushed through its veins, and it couldn't think of anything else but finding him and bringing him to Edhen.
Eira gathered all the strength that was left in its body and stormed forward, its heads spewing fire.
The warriors, using their shields against the fire, circled Eira. Some of them fell under the blows of Eira's paws and flips of its tail, but majority of them leaped onto Eira, their swords and spears slamming into Eira's body.
The sacred blades drew strength out of Eira. It felt so tired. So tired. It could hardly lift its paw to shake off the attackers, all that it could do was roar and growl, showing its long sharp teeth and snapping with them at the warriors.
The warriors stepped back and Eira tottered.
"Look what you have done to yourself. And all because of a human, a sinner. You are forbidden to ever step into the sacred ground of Edhen," a thunderous voice announced.
Eira became too tired for its wings to carry the weight of its large body; it started to fall head first.
It closed its eyes, a salty taste in its mouths as the wind rushed by. It could hear the whispers of condemnation from them, it could hear the echo of their indignation and disgust over its actions which earned it an exile from Edhen.
Its body changed, the scales disappeared, four heads became one and paws transformed into hands. It had become a girl again.
She had just wanted to help her love and she had failed. But she was falling into Sheol anyway; she was going to find Blaidd even if that meant she was going to have to dig through the darkest, most hidden and hideous parts of Sheol. She was going to find him, and they were going to be happy, very happy, because love was not a sin, never, not even when it made an angel fall.
* The End*