August 11th, 1990 • Avigdell
Lask sat under the sprawling oak on the south side of the island, knees drawn up to his chest, with his back bared to the wind to allow his wounds to breathe. The wind dried the tears on his face almost as quickly as they fell. The summer night was warm, and faint flickers of heat lightning brooded in the clouds. A low growl of thunder rolled above the island, masking the sound of footsteps. Lask gazed across the river he could not soar over, at the remnants of the bridge he had destroyed for his own protection, a prisoner on his own island.
He started at the sound of a voice, and his eyes snapped over his shoulder to see his Shadow lurking just beyond the oak.
“You,” he snarled. “How did you get here? How dare you show your face to me?” He unfurled from the ground, sparking in his rage.
“I drew a door to you. I wanted to see you–”
“You wanted me dead!” Lask snapped.
Regina recoiled at the sharp crack of his voice.
“I didn’t mean–”
“Look what you’ve done to me!” he snarled, turning so she could see the harsh scabs, which stretched down his shoulders, “What you have taken from me!”
“I didn’t mean for this to happen,” Regina whispered, her dark eyes welling at the sight of him.
“You conspire with Demons behind my back, yet still have the audacity to set foot here?” Lask spat. “I should choke the life out of you!” He lunged for her, but Regina dodged, skittering out of reach.
“I came back because I am sorry,” she said, “Because Phena sent a raven to me and told me what happened. I left Zestir. He’d kill me if he knew I’d come here. I want to help you–”
“What help is there for me now?” Lask growled, stalking after her. “The damage is done. I will heal and walk the world like any other. You on the other hand…” He lunged again, and Regina scrambled. His fingers tore the collar of her dress, leaving him with a scrap of black lace, which he tossed into the wind.
“You need me,” Regina growled back, skirting the tree to stay away from him. “This anger will hurt you if you keep it. There is much Darkness in wrath–”
“Why do you care?” snapped Lask, “Is that not what you’d want for me?”
“It’s not good for you to be alone, not good for your heart–”
“Don’t pretend like you give a damn about me.” Lask pursued her, the two stepping around the tree and among the stones in a predatory dance. “You wouldn’t have done this to me if you cared. I offered you this place, I wanted you here. You wouldn’t stay. You went to the enemy. I’ll have no more of your lies–”
“It’s not a lie! I can’t help what I am, can’t help the Darkness in me–”
“I told you I could fix it, ensure you survived accepting the Light. You weren’t interested, didn’t believe me, didn’t want to hear how I knew I could. I should have killed you then!” He lunged for her, but Regina was quick, dodging to send him stumbling over the roots.
“I am sorry!” Regina cried, voice rising. “I didn’t know this would happened, would never have chosen to take this from you–”
“But you did!” Lask thundered. “You did, you have– do you see? You have nothing to offer me, and nothing I’d want. I offered you love, and you have robbed me of the wind and the sky, you have taken my bloodright, and condemned me to this agony. I shall have no forgiveness for you. You are a viper, a creeping thorn. If you want to keep your life, you will leave this place and never set foot here again.”
“Begone or die, Regina!” he roared. “I don’t care which!”
“You hate me,” she whispered, voice breaking.
“Most ardently,” Lask snarled, crimson eyes searing.
Tears spilled down Regina’s face as she backed away from him. “Fine,” she hissed. “Be alone then. Waste away in your misery if you will. When I have gone back to the Darkness, it will be on you.”
She turned her back on him, and set off toward the open field to draw her door. She had always been good at drawing them. Lask had once hoped she’d teach him, instead he watched her conjure one in the night to leave again. If he’d had his wings, he would have lunged at her, forced her to the ground, and enjoyed the feel of her throat in his hands, but he couldn’t be bothered to run to close the gap between them.
When she had gone, he looked back out at the brooding sky above the water. The island was silent, except for the roll of thunder and constant murmur of wind. It was maddening. The island was devoid of life, save for a few birds in the forest and the fish Phena had brought for the underground stream.
“How could you do this to me?” he asked of the sky, of the storm clouds, and what lay beyond them. “How dare you?”
Finding he was tired of his own miserable company, he pushed himself up, braced himself on the oak for a moment, then pushed off to stride toward the edge of the island. In his growing fury, he didn’t notice the sparks sent up by his feet as he prowled to the edge of his prison.
“How could you do this?” he demanded again.
In the distance, the thunder growled.
“You sent me here, you told me what I was, who I was, and in the blink of an eye, you tear my destiny from my very shoulders!” With every growling word, his brooding self-pity fell away like ash, giving way to rage. Sparks swirled from his fingers. “How dare you?! LIAR!”
The thunder cracked, lightning zipping across the sky above him.
“You don’t scare me!” Lask bellowed back. “What will you do? Strike me? STRIKE, THEN! Be done with it! Strike me or help me! But don’t you dare leave me here like this alone!”
All at once. the clouds broke and a stinging torrent of cold rain burst over his face.
“Is that it then?!” Lask roared into the gale. The wind whipped his hair back from his face, and the pounding rain stung the ragged stripes across his back. “What am I to you? If you have no need of me, then send me off!” He lunged toward the precipice, but a gust struck him in the chest, flinging him back from the edge.
Lask winced as he was sent sprawling, grass, grit and mud scouring his back. “FINE!” He roared at the tumultuous sky from his back. “What, then?!”
He rolled upright, dripping with rain and mud, spitting with rage. “You send me out here, tear everything away from me, leave me sitting out here in the mud like a common man! What am I supposed to do? The Light provides? LIES!” He roared. “You provide me nothing but misery! What will you do if I refuse? You can lock me here, ground me, force me to endure this alone without any sense of purpose, but what if all I do is sit here?”
With that, he sat himself in the roots of the oak, crossing his legs, and sprawling his arms as if it were a throne, and not a rough coil of bark. He looked out across the island, across the lightning and the wind, through the sheets of the rain, and set his jaw.
“I refuse,” he growled. “If you want me, then you will not do this to me. You will help me. You will send me something, or I will find my way to Death or the Demons.”
The wind shrieked at him, but Lask would not relent. “Don’t you dare call me audacious! Not after what you take and then dare ask! You gave me my will, and I shall use it. Here I will sit until I starve or turn Dark. Either way, I shall render myself useless if this is how you will treat me. I am alone, and I will accept this, but I will not walk this island prison, nor up to the Demons’ gates.”
The rain slapped his face as if he were an insolent child, but his tightened his hands on the roots of the oak, and looked into the whipping tempest. “You will prove you still mean me well. If this is love, then have mercy. Show me you are not as cruel as what you would have me face in your name.”
The wind howled in the forest behind him, but above it, Lask called, “SEND ME A HORSE! If nothing else, do not make me walk into your fray. PROVE IT!”
The thunder cracked just above him, lightning narrowly missing the treetop.
“Strike if you like, I said I won’t move! A horse, and I will rise and be silent. For want of a horse, I shall do nothing for you. NOTHING!”
The rain blew into face, as if to strip his nose and eyes raw, and despite himself, Lask flinched, turning his face away and closing his eyes. All at once, the storm went silent. The rain slowed and ceased. The wind rushed past him, through his hair and over his battered skin, and then it was gone.
For a moment, he sat there, realizing he had curled into the roots, then slowly unfurled himself. He was aware of his breath, ragged and loud in the sudden stillness. His throat felt raw from shouting above the thunder. Droplets fell from the leaves above and rolled down his bare shoulders. Lask leaned back, setting his jaw. The island was silent, and he was stubborn. The storm was gone, and in its wake was only silence. He gripped the roots, crossing his legs again, and leaned back, prepared to keep his word.
He looked out across the dark island, the rushing water beyond, surveying an empty kingdom. Eventually the wind returned, whispering in the trees behind him, as if mocking his stillness.
There was a hot puff of air on his ear and down his neck, with a sudden thunderous snort.
Lask yelped, and scrambled away from the tree in an inelegant flail, tripping over a root in the darkness, and sprawling in the grass. He rolled, clawing back upright, and turning back to see an immense horse. It was a stallion, proud and well-muscled, with a sleek coat the color of the night. Lask extended a hand, wondering if it were an illusion. He’d heard no sound of its arrival, and those massive hooves could not be silent.
As if to prove his thought, the horse stepped forward, each foot thumping into the ground, until he stood before Lask, watching him with dark eyes.
“You sent me a horse,” he breathed, as if to the air. “I… I didn’t think you would.”
The stallion pushed his nose into Lask’s hand, and snorted into his palm.
“It’s black,” he noted. “Not very Luminor-like. Thought I was a White Knight.”
The wind moved through the trees in the distance, but the island was quiet.
“A name,” spoke the horse.
Lask removed his hand from the black muzzle as if he’d been burned.
“A name,” said the stallion again. “Give me a name and I will serve you until my death will serve you better. Then, if you allow me to give you name, I will serve you still of my own free will.”
“What does that mean?” Lask asked.
“You will know when it is time,” said the horse. “For now, give me a name and I will fall silent to carry you.”
“What if I don’t want you to be silent? What if I would rather have your company?”
“You will still have my company,” replied the stallion. “Name me, shoe me, feed me, stable me, and I will not let you fall on the battlefield. Accept me, and you must ride onto many.”
“Done.” Lask reached out and seized a handful of thick black mane. “No horse shall be more finely stabled.” He took a moment to lock eyes with the stallion, then spoke, “Theramancer.”
“Well met, Al–” the Luminor’s name dissolved into the sound of a neigh that echoed across the field. The stallion snorted pawing the sodden ground, bowing his head. Lask went to his side and pushed himself up, wincing as the skin of his shoulders pulled, and settled bareback across the stallion’s great shoulders.
“Come,” he said to the horse, “I have a stable to raise.”