Part 9: The grip of Darkness
Court could look no longer.
This entire time I have been wrong, Court thought. It had not been the psychic hatred of his Garai Brethren which had created this rift, it was the Wife of Aries Black. He needed air. And yet, as he stared into the abyss, Court had no will to reach the surface. Down here everything seemed silent, everything was eternal. Safe. No more adventures, no more battles, only a long awaited sleep. Let the others seal the rift, no one knew what nightmares he had lived through to reach this end. We're glad you came back, said the voices again, Let your pain be washed away. Let the pain of the world wash away...sleep.
Except Court was never very fond of sleep. In sleep was when his nightmares came. Court's eyes snapped open, and he suddenly kicked up towards the surface, his lungs burning. He was swimming and kicking ferociously, but he wasn't going anywhere. Someone was grabbing at his feet. Looking down, to his terror, was the reanimated corpse of Aries Black holding Court in his mechanical grip. Black's once vivid blue eyes were now horrific dead eyes, faded and hollow.
The more Court tried to shake his grip, the harder Black's fingers tightened. So this is how it ends, Court grimaced, letting the darkness engulf him. His heart was pounding, deafeningly loud in his ears. But then Court saw Adan's meaty, tattooed arms, then felt them wrapping around his chest. Court was being pulled up. Thank you, thank you. Black's grip on Court's heels slipped, and he sank down into the iron gray darkness and vanished. In another moment the two surfaced, and were helped up the crumbling lip of the floor by Cael.
Cael had somehow managed to get several of the torches burning, the warmth shedding away the terror and the cold. The massive war machine lay dead and broken not far from where they were, the light of the flames brushing its potted metal husk. The hole in the machine where it's armor had been torn off was wafting smoke. Court still lay in a puddle on his side, gasping, staring for a long time at the empty walkway where the Garai had been watching, while Cael proudly told him their story of how they had defeated the war machine.
“There we were, on the edge of the floor, between the two statues, when the monster came charging up at us,” Cael began, until Adan quickly cut him off.
“... I Found yer pistol and shot the damned thing.” Adan finished, waving aside Cael's protest. They laughed together. Court was sure there must be more to their story, but he would leave that for another time.
“Oh, and we also found this.” Adan said, reaching for something in the dark beside his makeshift seat of broken stone.
* * *
Court Beltain stood with the sword of Aries Black held firmly in his hand. He raised the sword skyward, closing his eyes. All his skill, what was left, he focused. Slowly he lowered the tip of the sword, aiming downward, at the gurgling water, to where the phantom gleam of the mirror lay deep below. The sword now shone in a growing warmth of color from the opening of sky above them. Outside the snow had stopped, and the wind had died.
And then Court speared the sword with all his might. It slid into the water without a noise, speeding like a bullet towards the mirror. A second later, the mirror shattered with an audible tink. But nothing else happened. The mirror lay broken and useless in the ashen gray depths.
“Then that’s the end? What about all this water—the rift?” Cael asked.
“The souls of my friends and family have found rest. The Nocturne magic is broken, the rift is sealed. The war is over. Who can say what will become of this place? Hopefully it will be forgotten.” Court said at last, “That's enough for me. Redemption, at last.”
“Let’s go home.” Court said, to which Cael and Adan nodded an approval. Both of them had filled their pockets with loot. Court smiled crookedly at them, and began walking towards the entrance of the palace. Turning one last time to see what would likely never be seen again, Court saw Gage leaning upon the walkway overhead. The older Brother gave Court an approving nod, and vanished.