XXVIII.

In between the fiery waves she thought there was a variation of a familiar dress, fabric, or maybe a face among the waves that were flesh, arms currents that pinned her down in her place.

A spell came to mind as she managed to find an opening for a gasp, though midway through the utterance the water sprite doused the spell out of her consciousness altogether. As she lost sense of direction, where the earth spread and heaven laid, she could only repeat the spell in her mind as though that would replace air and silence her screaming lungs. Somehow it took effect, she broke free, and a chill breath overcame her assailant, freezing and halting the shifting form after a horrible screech. Freedom, at last: Lyra scrambled.

The ice sculpture she’s made was incredible, cruel, incredibly cruel, and she stared for a split second before yet another spurt of movement briefly broke free from the ice. A hand, a claw, she dodged, it caught. The icicles tore open the forearm she raised in her defense, though her other hand gave a slight wave to reinforce her spell. Finally, frozen in place is the water nymph, its humanoid form distorted by rage and screeches. Already, treacherous tendrils had begun to melt and reach out at their aggressor. Still, its form, if she imagined, and its aura, were too familiar.

“…Ting?”

A mere human label invented for a disguise hardly have any claim over the nymph’s anger, “Release me, filthy human!”

Still, a screeched command is hardly convincing proof that Lyra have a chance at survival should she comply. Though she saw as the water seethed with rage a tendril of darkness, spreading, contracting, at its very core.

How did the Fallen reach so far? The voices plagued her not but…out of the sympathy for such an ailment she reached for the darkness, a hand placed above the empty void where the heart used to live, “Shh…I am here to help you.”

“A mere human? You cannot undo what your people had wreaked.”

“Am I a mere human?” Lyra questioned without hearing. “How can you know if I can’t fix your grievances if you won’t even cry?”

Sympathy is a rare beast, for deep betrayal startle it forever, extinct.

Lyra watched the tendril tumble, mangling the heart so pure, then no longer could she just watch that she seized the darkness for herself, and wrenched it free. A few things were torn, for the thought was so deeply lodged within the nymph’s mind, and at this necessary violence and the creature’s cries miniscule roots originally suppressed flourished. A memory disturbed, the dusts unsettled: Lyra was instead irrevocably drawn in.

For it was a warm afternoon in the lively summers: she was the singing stream, and he was the willow tree. In the same stroke of nature they were born, together, as a major flood filled the crevices of the earth and in the murky recession of the waters she was left behind while he emerged from the nutritious muck of earth. A pond, a seedling, in an orphic world of mud.

He whispered “hi,” first, handing her a leaf. She giggled, kicked some pebbles about, while she paced and read the letter. The poetry, in hindsight, was meager at best. But, her heart was set, at last, and they were inseparable since.

So the river and the tree, together, watched the currents of time slip faster than the winds of a harsh storm. He wanted to forever stand by her side, his roots digging deeply into the earth and grasped for eternity. She wanted to forever stand guard to his gentle branches, careful to see if the winds of heaven visit him too roughly. The wind sprite never did much harm, though, besides a teasing line or two. And they were left to live at the peak of their happiness.

Of course, it was the peak because there was a dip.

They were in their favorite spot of heaven under the shade of his willow tree when they came. The two didn’t think much of it since they saw the plumes of the Nokshan, a promise bright as the sky. A Nokshan can never hurt nature, he calmed her suspicions. Our Guardians won’t hurt us.

His good humor turned sour, however, when they saw the men with the Nokshan. If sins were people that’s what they would look like, and she would call them greed and pride, partnering shadows hiding behind self-righteous ambition. She suggested that they attack first, and he was hesitant until they saw the Nokshan’s outstretched hand. The void beneath that hand, the black sphere insatiable…though before they could act one of the willow of the grove gave way as its spirit, part of his spirit, was ripped from its tender branches. He doubled in agony.

She was furious. This Nokshan was a traitor of sanctified trust. While he moaned for her to run she charged instead. She was blinded by rain and tears, and all she wanted was to stop his hurts.

The Nokshan was deterred, but the men polluted her: they had with them a strange potion that they emptied into her river. The rancid smell, the burning acidity, the tar that blinded her from all senses of the world besides his voice in the background, fading, leaving. Not now…she still didn’t tell him…his seed…their seed…they killed it, they killed it, killed it. She was mauled, mutilated and he was nowhere to be found. Wisped away in the sphere of the forbidden spell as though he never existed beyond that dried stick of a carcass that only pained her more.

It was wilting, wilted, and she lost their seed. They killed it.

The men who hurt and break took his spirit, found her too broken by their own hands to be of any use to them so left her to die.

So, she will die, but so will they.

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