The last installments in Lara’s story, published together as I didn’t want to drag this on too long! For those of you who are interested, I’m going to post a really short explanation of the whole story after this post.
Lara felt herself emerge onto the final incline like stone dust. She felt the air as a thin shawl around her shoulders. She drew together all the flames inside her as she climbed, and looked up into the black sky. Abiel came to her At the sight of him Lara faltered and slipped but she clung on tight to the rock face.
“Why are you here?” asked Abiel.
So clear was he to her now. Suddenly Abiel was truly there, standing above her on the summit, looking down upon her with sorrow and love. And despite their past, Lara reached out her hand for him, trying to clasp his fingers. He knelt down and took her hand in his, and Lara’s candles melted to liquid at his touch, still so familiar to her. His calm gold eyes, his sweet eyes, were entirely peaceful…save one fleck of red ruby in the left occulet.
And that was when Lara remembered that Abiel did not walk upon the earth.
It was Midgard who was now the calm, untroubled. His hair was light with peace, his skin was even and cooled. His darkness was lessened because he had forced so much of the darkness (forced onto him by The Great Before,) onto his brother’s shoulders. His propensity to ill thus slumbered.
“Lara,” he said, “My Lara.”
Lara’s insides were small pebbles in a box. “What…what happened to you?” she shook.
“Fate,” Midgard laughed, revealing all his white pointed teeth, “Justice. I have been to the end of the world and back. And look; my many prayers have been answered. I separated myself, Lara, into light and dark. But my light grew arrogant and threw me to oblivion, as he threw you away. I am part of Abiel. My brother and I are one and the same. So you hold Abiel’s hand as you hold mine-“
Lara tried to let go of his hand, but Midgard was not prepared to let her fall away from him. With a flash of deranged mirth, he lunged forward and seized both Lara’s hands, making her dependent on his grip. If she let go, she would fall.
“I form light and create darkness, I make peace and bring disaster, I, your Prince, do all these things,” he cried. “For I am Jehovah. And I say to you that I am no longer in two halves, one dark and one supposedly light. I renounce my actions of The Great Before. I am whole. And look- do not the mountains form my trinity?”
The Mountains: Jehovah, Jehovah, Jehovah, Hovah.
“My spirit resides here in the mountains that tell of my secret,” Midgard put his face too close to Lara, “perhaps that is why you love them so much, Lara. You felt my lighter self’s lie to you every time that you looked upon them. You heard my lullaby to you through their streams. You both missed me and rejoiced in me, as I was not whole. Oh but when he threw me away from him, he threw me away from you also. I pined. I wept.
And then Midgard’s beautiful eyes disappeared, and his teeth were covered in blood. He pulled Lara up onto the summit beside him. The heavens opened to them. The rain came down.
Then Midgard vanished into the sky.
Lara was alone at the top of the mountains, her spirit slashed by Midard’s secret to her into a thousand thousand pieces to the four winds. The sky was open, but looking up through her watery eyes, Lara could see that the mountains was not high enough that she could climb into its gaping mouth.
I can do nothing. I can only lean my back against the mountain, watching the sky.
She looked into the cosmos and saw the planets, dark and cold.
She felt the pulse of the new electricity of the air.
She saw the sun and moon chasing time round the earth; still, and futile. Negligible. She felt the music of the Universe; the Ostinato of the wind, the hum of every plane in discordant harmony.
She felt her eyes blaze with white fire.
She knelt down and dug a small hole in the earth, and placed into it the doll. She cried a little and kissed Dolly’s face as she sealed it over.
She unfurled her living, breathing wings; black, lined with silver. The stones that had become lodged between the rows of feathers when she fell now fell away themselves.
She saw the dot that was all things. Nix.
She beat her wings in time to the electrical storms of the air. She was lifted several feet into the air. She gasped silently. She tried again.
Higher, said the mountains. Higher still.
Shaking with fear and triumph, Lara flew towards the mouth in the sky. The night stars were its teeth as she was consumed by the heavens.The jeweled city lay dark now. All the citizens slept fretfully in their beds, and the cracked marble pavements were covered in dusk.
In the palace, The Very Long Table was devoid of its council. In its highest chamber, a bedchamber with a cot shrouded in silver gossamer curtains, and a wall decorated with a tapestry of an angel, wrong, a dying Prince lay. He was shaking with fear and anger. He was sleeping in the only bed in his palace that gave him any form of peace now, for this one was soft and small, and bore the scent of mountain streams. He could sometimes shut his burning flames against reality and breathe in the sweet aroma, and pretend that it was still before, and the angel still slept silent under the soft silky blanket, safe, loving, worshipping. That was long ago now, and she had long since departed. She had plotted, conspired against him, been seduced by another, had fallen away from him. His heart began to murmur its orisons of love.
Something was happening; he was aware of a sweep of the air close to him. A sweep, promising an impact. Well, it came; something alighted on the balcony outside the bedchamber. His eyes roved around but he was aware of a curtain being pulled aside. Silent, darling tread upon the floor of fair feet.
Lara reached out and drew back the silver gossamer curtains. Abiel was changed, but Lara felt no fear. Abiel, so filled with his imperfect self, lay in bed. His teeth were unevenly shaped, pointed and covered in scarlet blood. His eyes were lustful, fearful rubies. His skin was blue, and there were holes in it around his eyes and upon his cheek. His fingers were long carved knives of bone.
“Abiel?” Lara spoke his name. The Govenor breathed. His eyes ranged wildly around, sightless with time and grief. “What-who is there? Who-who is-?!”
“I am Lara,” said Lara. She knelt down by the cot, reached out her hand and touched his ruined countenance. Her face was a mountain’s gaze.
“Do you remember me, Abiel?”
Abiel looked at her pointedly. “Lara.”
He reached out and gently took hold of her face. He caressed it a moment. Then he pulled Lara just a little closer to him that he might see her more clearly.
“It has her face,” he whispered. “But its hands are covered in scars, and its wings are…your wings. I loved the feathers, made them pure-white feathers-“
“They turned dark when I fell,” said Lara.
“No. Midgard…is like this…he wanted-he scorched your wings black-he has seduced you, and…and you conspired against me together and-and now you come in your revenge- “ Abiel started to hiss.
“No. My wings turned dark when I fell,” replied Lara. “Because I bled so much when first I fell. I had so little purpose that I to concentrate on keeping my soul alive, and my wings were starved of blood and turned black. And I never conspired against you,” her eyes flared red with anguish, “I was entirely innocent. You were all I knew, you were the air in the sky, the reason for all these things, and I would rather have died than been unfaithful to you, but you cast me out, you cast me away from you though I reached for you, I begged you to let me stay with you, I was knowing of all save your deceit, but you cast me down, and I fell away from you, and there was nothing. And now I return you still hide your guilt behind your own pretences to stop yourself from feeling pain at your actions-“
“Go away!” Abiel wept now, seething, putting his hands of his ears, “Leave me, infernal vision. Stop haunting me, Lara!”
Lara seized his wrists and pulled his hands away from his ears. Her eyes were laughing broken flame. “Do you even know what pain I suffered? Can I even describe it? It was like fire. It was like ice. It was burning, unceasing, unbearable. You were right when you spoke to me on the Plane, in the guise of your darker self, for it hasn’t faded, for I still feel it, every part of it, but now you are confronted with it, you cower away.”
“Damn you,” whimpered Abiel, “Where-where is your new Prince, my brother? W-why is it that he –“
“He is not your brother,” Lara’s mouth became a blood-slit smile in her face. “He is closer blood to you than that. And he is slipping back into your soul. Soon, you shall be with him and in him, one.”
“No!” Abiel sobbed violently, “It shall not be, I-I shall not let it-! Ah-“ and with that, he breathed his last.
Lara leaned over the cot and kissed shut his closing eyes. She smoothed his hair and stroked his burning forehead with her cool hands. “I love you,” she whispered as he slipped away. She turned slowly and saw one of the citizens standing, pale and fearful, by the door.
“Is he dead?” he asked.
“Yes, Damariel. He still exists, but he’s part of someone else now.”
“C…can’t you ask him…can’t you ask him not to be dead?” Damariel quivered, “He would listen to you. He tried to make me his favourite after you’d…he told us how you left him. But he didn’t like me as much as he liked you. You were the special one.”
Little. Lara reached to take his hand but Damariel shrunk away. She looked back into her old silken cot, and saw that Abiel’s old form had already disappeared.
“Please,” Damariel’s face was unable to move.“Lara, strange one, something bad is coming, something very scary, I-I think we’re all going to be very badly…grievously harmed.”
“You will all be changed,” she replied. “For you are all in halves. Just as you have been mothered away from the darker Plane, so have your darker selves who are trapped there been starved of the water of heaven. You’re going to be one again. It will cause great pain. But not me. I’m not one of you. And anyway, I’m quite dark already.”
“Lara, strange one,” Damariel was now mobile with terror, “Lara, why do you say these strange things? It frightens me-!”
Lara felt the air fill with current. She looked to the sky, and saw a host of Hellions flying. An army of them; Ghosts, ghouls, imps, The Demons, those Dukes and counts of Hell and indeed all the 72 legions of Dantalion. They were led by Midgard; his smile a blood-smear, his rows of teeth bone knives bared in savage triumph. Lara saw his torn blood-dyed cloak over his armour, his crown of thorns sewn through with lustful rubies, his eyes that blazed like a strange one’s heart, out. His golden chariot was pulled by 600 and 66 blood hounds, all roaring. The whole army was an ocean of maddened laughter, joyous revenge.
Damariel screamed, and ran from the palace, crying. Lara could hear the sister screams of the other citizens as they saw hell’s army become their sky, as swarm of seething, hysterical black locusts.
Midgard halted his chariot. The bloodied red banners and lighted torches of his armies were raised in the air and flying in the wind. He lifted his arm, held it there a moment so that the rings on his fingers caught the light of the fires. Then, he flung it down. With an apocalyptic cry of exultation, the infernal army plunged down upon the city.
Lara did not shut her eyes, but watched from the palace window each act of violation and slaughter. She burned like a star; wrathful, eternal, distant and cold. I hate-I love-I knew-bad, bad.
Lara felt a warm hand upon her shoulder. She turned. It was Midgard, whole again, but still very dark indeed.
“My dear,” said he softly, “ Why does my justice set your heart alight?”
“Because these creatures were like children.” said she.
Midgard’s eyes then alighted with amusement.
“If you and Abiel are one and the same,” said she, “Then you must have made the decision to separate yourself into two halves as much as he did. For you were one-“
Midgard’s eyes flared red. “I separated myself, that my people might have seen all spheres of life; experienced both light and dark, and all the grey in between ,” said he. “Abiel separated me from him against my will. He forced me and my sons into eternal exile in that morgue that is the darker plane. I heard my soldiers, my servants, my own children weeping for the horror of it. And I wept too. Here is a present for you,” he reached into his cloak and gave to Lara a crown of black roses to wear on her brow, crafted by his own hand. He placed it gently on Lara’s head. He smiled and held a lock of her dark hair in his talons.
“My Lara. My own Lara. I am so sorry that I made your Abiel push you to the lower Plane. I did it so that you would not have to witness the dissolution of heaven which had to ensue. Forgive me, Lara. My love. I shall leave my legions and their atrocities here, if you come with me down to the mountains of the lower plane and live with me there forever.”
“-you are not, then, equally light and dark. If you were then you would feel so much more remorse at your crimes.”
“Abiel was once equal to me,” Midgard curled the lock of Lara’s hair around his finger, where it trailed the silver gore on his hand round until spidery patterns appeared upon his ring. “I have been made so bitter by his betrayal of me that my darkness grew. His light was frittered away as I tormented his mind. His light diminished, my dark augmented. Now I am more of the latter than of the former.”
“Better there was no Jehovah at all,” uttered Lara. She removed the crown of roses from her head. She was for a moment leaning against the mountains, watching the sky. Then she rent the thing in two pieces.
Midgard’s eyes snapped to meet her gaze. “What are you doing?”
Lara tore the thing again.
“No! Stop, stop that.” Fired Midgard. Lara laughed bitterly and tore it again.
“Decease,” hissed Midgard, “Enough, enough! Don’t tear it any more-“
Lara began to unpick the petals of each hellish bloom. With each petal she shed, a cry came up from outside the palace as a hundred Hellions and a thousand Celestials fell dead as each petal hit the floor.
“No!” Midgard lunged forward and took hold of Lara’s face, “ Enough, little Jezebel, tear it no more-!”
Only one rose was left. Every Helion and every citizen of the jeweled city was being nursed in oblivion now, as in a safe, warm bed. Only Lara and Midgard remained, and there was no oblivion for them. If there had been, Lara thought, she would have found it by now.
Lara unpicked the last rose’s petals and as she did, the universe opened its mouth and began to devour all the slumbering hellions and Celestials alike.
“My legions, my legions!” keened Midgard. But the sky was still hungry. Better the sky be fed than for any Jehovah to be spared, thought Lara. She tore of the penultimate petal , and the city itself-as well as Midgard’s forsaken kingdom-was eaten, and became nothing.
“My darling,” wept Midgard, “If you remove that last petal, I warn you, I shall eat through the skin of your neck.”
Lara tore the stem of the last rose in 2 pieces.
Midgard screamed in horror as the ground went beneath them.
He clasped Lara to him.
Lara shut her eyes.