Anecdote XLVI. The Fog of Doubt

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At first, Lask did not want to hope for his wings– he dared not indulge in the excitement of “if it works…” and instead, busied himself with the science and magic of what it would take to resurrect the decades-dead flesh and reattach it in working order. He consulted his friends and allies, the Library, his contacts in the city, and eventually found the concoction he needed. It was the ingredients that would prove tricky. Some, he had on hand, some could be made for him, others would prove more difficult: the poison used on him, grown from a black tree in the heart of Zestir’s wasteland, the blood of Zestir himself, and fog from both the Pit of Halgoddah and the Borderlands of the Library.

When he consulted his family, Stefin’s response was: “Two out of four, very easy. I plan to conquer and kill Zestir for you– I can get his blood when I have his head, and after that, his territory is mine, we just have to find the poison tree.”

“Kill them and take it, that’s always your answer,” Lask replied with a chuckle.

“It’s effective.” The red Demon shrugged.

The fog would prove more difficult. Lask knew he could make the journey into the Library, and hoped he might find the Chessboard there as well, but there was no other but Quinn who could walk so far. The Dark Pit of Halgoddah was a different case, and the others would not hear of him going alone.

June 2nd, 2015 • Halgoddah

Stefin went through the door first, growling at the barren expanse of ash on the other side. Lask came behind him, with Falient in tow. As they crossed in the charred, rocky landscape, Falient shut the door behind them. It was a desolate place; black, lifeless, pierced with sharp stones broken long ago. The evil of the place hung in the air like a thunderhead. The ground beneath Lask’s feet sent up sparks with each step, as if the dust were gunpowder and couldn’t bear the touch of him.

Stefin and Falient moved more naturally in the place, seeming at home in the wasteland as they approached the edge of the gorge. It was a dark gash in the land, a hole torn through the fabric of being when the Great Dark fell. The three of them stood on the edge and peered into the abyss. It was black below, stretching down into the bowels of the world, into Hell itself. Fog swirled many feet down, obscuring the depths.

“Be careful,” said Falient. “It’ll talk to you. Don’t listen. I’ll come after you if you call.”

Lask nodded, but found he had no words, so turned to find the first handhold, lowering himself over the edge. Stefin glanced at him, then went back to keeping a wary eye on the Dark lands around them. Falient, however, knelt by the edge, watching as Lask began the descent. He remembered his own passage into the depths after his saber, and the Darkness he found there.

“Remember love,” he told Lask as the Luminor began the climb.

“Always,” Lask replied, lowering himself into the chasm.

He progressed down the side of the gorge with slow, careful movements. The wall was stony and jagged, with plenty of footholds, but the rock was loose in places. More than once, he sent a spray of gravel free-falling into the pit, and heard no sound of it hitting the bottom. He glanced down, seeing the fog he’d come to collect swirling below him. He continued downward, every now and then peering up at the shape of Falient shrinking away above him. It was dark in the pit, and the farther he went, the harder it was to see. He chanced summoning just a little bit of his fire so he could see the stone immediately around him.

As he continued down, he seemed to grow no closer to the fog. It was as if it receded, trying to coax him deeper into the abyss. A bit of grit slipped under his foot, and his hands seized the stone, clinging to the side of the chasm as he found a more stable footing. Lask found himself missing his wings dreadfully; he would have had no fear of falling then, and it would have been easy to swoop down after the fog. He pursued the mist downward until he heard a whisper.

We tore you out of the sky once. We can do it again.

Lask paused, checking to make sure he was still alone on the side of the pit. He could see nothing. He brightened his fire, but there was nothing in sight. Deciding it was the usual trickery of the chasm, he started downward again.

Your luck won’t last forever, came the whisper. Eventually you will lose. Eventually we will have our vengeance.

Lask ignored it. He looked up and could barely see Falient high above him. He should have reached the fog by now. He didn’t know how far it could recede. He doubted the Library would have sent him after something unobtainable; he was bound to catch up with the mist eventually. He had come to the place Falient where had found his saber. There was still a stain of blood on the wall where Falient had had to pierce the blade through his shoulder.

We know what you are, hissed the voice as he continued. Liar. Manipulator. Teller of half-truths and riddles. You’re not so different from us. Surely you know what happens to Light that gets too arrogant.

(Fall) another whisper echoed.

Lask continued to ignore it. He was starting to draw nearer to the fog.

It’s in your destiny, your very blood calls you to fall. You are of the Fallen. Your towers will fall like you will fall, said the voice. Your fires will be lost in our flames. We will burn everything you love. That heart of yours won’t last forever. We will enjoy watching you bleed to death alone.

(Fall)

“Oh do shut up,” Lask muttered back as he climbed. “You’re very strong and scary, I know. You hate me, and want me dead. This is nothing new.”

Darkness gets what Darkness wants, always, with time. You won’t live forever. Death always wins. Even if we don’t have the pleasure of killing you, we will outlive you.

“Will you?” Lask replied. He was nearing the fog. “Because I have seen my kind endure after death. There’s nothing out there for you. You might outlive me on this plane, but you won’t know what forever is.”

That arrogance will cost you–

“And is this so-called arrogance not justified?” Lask growled back. His feet had reached the edge of the fog. “I am greater than the likes of you. You may beat and batter me, but you will not bow my head. I am a Son of Light, yet uncorrupted, and in the name of the Light, I am your master. You and yours will yield to me and mine.” He paused, getting a solid footing and withdrew a phial from his pocket.

You are but one, hissed the voice.

“One spark is all that is needed to hold back Darkness.” Lask collected the fog and replaced the phial.

One spark is easy to snuff.

Lask tucked the phial back into his pocket, and reached up for a handhold, beginning the long climb back up.

There was a faint scuffling down below. Lask kept climbing. There was a rumble beneath him, and a growing cacophony of squawking and squeaking. He waited, gauging the sound, then set himself ablaze as it neared.

A torrent of bats rocketed out of the depths, bearing the fog back up with their wings. They shrieked and fluttered everywhere, but none so much as touched Lask as he climbed. He surrounded himself in a cocoon of flame, and anything that came too near was incinerated on contact. He ignored the bats as they thundered past. The fog closed around him, obscuring the view of the edge high above.

You are but one! snarled the pit. The fog seemed to swirl into a gale, pelting at the shield of fire Lask had conjured.

He continued upward, pulling himself up toward the place he knew Falient was waiting, even though he could not see him. The stale wind of the pit buffeted him, pulling at his flames, and every now and then a bat would come streaking out of the storm, as if to piece through, only to burst into ash.

You are but one, snarled the abyss, One soul in a war much bigger than you, one candle in an ocean of Darkness. You are weak. We have battered you beyond repair, broke you long ago. Your mask will slip and you will break again, and all will see you for the madman you are.

“I will not,” Lask growled back, pulling himself on. The winds pulled at him, as if trying to pluck him from the stone, but he held on, hauling himself ever upward.

We took your companion. We took your wings. We took your Shadow. We took your mentor. We will take it all before the end.

“You can try to take whatever you want,” Lask shot back, “But you will not take this heart. My fire shall not be quenched. You foolishly kindled a fury in me when you robbed me of the sky, so I will show you what wrath can do.”

The winds howled around him as he climbed, and he could feel the gale trying to pry him loose from the wall. The Darkness in the fog grappled with his fire, trying to pierce through his blazing shield. The voices of the fog swirled around him, until all at once, he flared into a great inferno of fire, scorching the mist into steam, buffeting the winds back with his own.

Did you not hear me?” he shouted to the pit. “I am a Son of Light, blackness in my blood though there may be, and you shall not touch me. I will tread wherever I must, even here, and you have no right to stop me. I do not fear you. I am your master, by Light and by blood, and I command you: get back. Take back your foul tempest and return to your toil below.”

The wind and the bats screeched at him, tangling with his fire. He could see the swirling blackness tearing at the edge of his flames, searing itself into smoke and dust in an effort to get to him. He let go of the wall with one hand to brandish his fist and his ring at the Darkness.

“Back to the depths with you!” the Luminor roared, unleashing the full force of his fire into the storm. “Back to your shadows and filth. Back to your crater of misery, where you fell by your own folly. In the name of the Light, BEGONE!”

An explosion rocked the abyss as Lask’s magic thundered into the shadows. The bats vanished into ash and the fog evaporated in the heat of his fire. The winds seemed to rush downward, pulling the shadows and the fog back into the depths below, driven back by the willful force of his fire.

In the span of a heartbeat, everything fell silent. The black magic of the pit was gone, and Lask let his fires recede. For a moment he clung to the wall, panting, willing his heart to stop pounding.

“You alright?” It was Falient’s voice.

Lask looked up. He could see the edge again above him, closer than he’d expected. Falient was leaning over, peering down with a concerned expression.

“Grand,” Lask called back.

He forced himself to start moving again, finding another handhold and continuing up. The rim of the chasm was perhaps only another fifty feet above him. He climbed onward toward it, leaving the black depths of the pit behind. Falient was stretching a hand down toward him, and Lask was glad when he was close enough to reach it. He let Falient help him over the edge, allowing himself to be hauled back onto the dusty ground.

“Wot the hell happened down there?” Falient asked. “You went in deeper than either of us thought you would. Thought about goin’ after you, started climbing, but then there was all this smoke and shadow. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see you at all. It was like a thunderstorm. All we could see was a swirl of black and an occasional flicker of fire.”

“And bats,” Stefin growled.

“Aye, a great ugly column of ’em,” Falient agreed, waving an arm to indicate the direction they’d taken off in.

“I’m fine,” Lask said. “The fog receded, so I had to go down to find it. I think it hoped to lure me deep enough it could keep me from reaching the surface again.”

“I assume you showed it the error of its ways?” Falient said.

“Naturally,” Lask replied, picking himself. He looked back into the pit for a moment.

“Wot?” asked Falient.

“Nothing,” Lask said, but in his head echoed, It’s in your destiny, your very blood calls you to fall. You are of the Fallen.

“We should get out of here,” said Stefin. “You look exhausted.”

Falient opened the door back to Avigdell, and Stefin shepherded him and Lask through before the Luminor could gaze into the abyss any longer. Taking one last glance back to make sure they weren’t being followed, the Sun Demon followed them home.

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