Iricah now saw through the gaping jaws that there were ships ahead of her, below in the sea. She felt the tingling sensation that things were too far out of her control, that she was going to die. Her friends were going to die. She had no ideas. Her lyre was probably broken. Her papers and maps were flying around her, shooting out of her bags like foul chased from a bush never to be seen again. Basically, Iricah had nothing left to lose.
Actually, there was one thing more.
Wind whipping around her, she saw through the blonde strands of her own hair, the ship in the sea and the figure standing atop it. And the tingling became a petrification. She was headed straight towards a large and heavily armed warship now, after just seeing a row of them blasted into oblivion. At the fore of that ship, giving commands, was a heavily armored soldier wearing a tunic in the crown’s gold and green colors. He was waving his sword, which even at great distance reflected the sun like a beacon in the brilliant light. She could hear him hollering to his men, his commanders at his side. Then, he looked up. Around him the cannons fired, the fiery ballistics shot upwards and towards her in the sky. They struck, causing the great beast to bellow as loud as a hurricane. It nearly shook her and Gaelon out. But somehow, the beast flew on.
She’s invincible. This was the end for the Celns below, Iricah knew. The Host would destroy the last line of ships in a single blast of her terrible breath weapon. Starting with the ship before her, and the man pointing his sword at her.
And she knew that man was Genoran, leading the last of the Celns on the last of their ships, so that she could save her brother. What a fool I’ve been. Gen, forgive me! But he’d never hear it, never even know, for she saw now that he was the next to become obliterated. In fact, Iricah had a front row seat to his death. She felt Gaelon, braced by her other hand, and knew Thrak and Frank were behind her. Iricah braced against the stalagmite sized teeth. There was nothing Iricah could do to stop this now.
A wicked voice spoke inside her mind. It was anger. It was rage. It was vengeance. You failed Iricah. You are no hero. You let them die, all of them for your brother, and now what have you wrought? I will take everything from you just as you took it from me! I will be us. All will be of me, all of you. I will be worshipped for millennia when the light returns! Honor, deceit. Ambivalence. Compassion. Bravery. Fear. Wrath. I will be all. All will be me. Know that you die, and so does all that matters to you in this light-forsaken world!
Her head, devoid of ideas, was now full of the wicked voice and the pain of losing all she held dear. This time, in the space that followed, she heard her own voice, and it was despair. You were starting to believe this hero bullshit, kiddo, she chided herself. I mean who did she think she was, some robe ladened savior? Lantern carrying heroes, and ancient riddles in stone. She hadn’t solved anything! Hadn’t saved any one! Unbelievably, she smiled resolutely, knowing she couldn’t watch, so she wouldn’t. She closed her eyes, refusing to see Genoran along with the last of his brave Celns destroyed by the breath weapon of this foul monster. She brought Gaelon to her, holding him in a final embrace. She spoke through sobs. “Brother, I…”
“Iricah.” He coughed. “Sister, save him.”
“Iricah, you have only this moment. Save him. Do not waste any more time on what you should do. Do what your noble heart tells you.”
The gale was powerful and his voice was like a faint whisper lost in a dream. She saw his eyes, full of horrors she couldn’t dare understand–his skin, still pale and sickly, his body still broken. Behind him, she saw Frank, horns twisting out of his skull, swinging his mace, his red face, and blazing eyes full of rage. The walls of the tunnel had come alive, and the many parts of bodies embedded there were lashing out at him, clawing at him like a great human centipede, bringing him down, bringing him towards them. Mouths in the flesh gnashed. One of us, the wicked voice cackled in her mind or in the space around her she couldn’t tell anymore. Be one of us, Frank!
The cleric screamed. He was a man of faith, and she knew he would die as one. Thrak behind him, tried to pull him free. But he too was being pummeled, and grasped, pulled towards the wall as well. Be one with me. We will be as one!
Around her, the air was thickening, and she felt the belt buckles pull at her bags, heard the crackling of electricity forming in the creature’s throat. She couldn’t look behind her, couldn’t look ahead. And then Iricah realized that Gaelon was right. So she looked at him, and she heard him cough a single word, smiling through pain and tears, “Go.”
And that’s when Iricah had an idea, finally. It wasn’t the idea she wanted, and it wasn’t the idea that she needed. But it was an idea, and she was going to take it. She drew her hand in the air in the shape of a door. A magical outline appeared. “I love you Gae,” she whispered.
“I love you too, Iricah,” he said.
And with everything in the world around her lost, she stepped into the door to try and save just one part of it.
“You shouldn’t have let her go, you moron,” sighed the prince. He looked up into the beast snaking through the sky, and watched it’s massive mouth open as vast as any cave. He had tried a last volley, but this foe was beyond anything they had. She, this Host, was beyond defeat. There was no stopping her. His brow furled into crinkled lines of acceptance. Fear in just that moment was replaced by regret. “You and your idiot superstitions Gen. Now she’s gone.”
“My lord?! Belowdecks m’lord!” Shouted a voice near him, but Genoran didn’t care. His imminent death above would simply end the death he had felt when Iricah had not returned. He felt bad for his men, and he was angry at himself for letting his father down. But those were not the thoughts he was having now.
Genoran turned to face the lad near him. Behind him, the colossus, as large as a mountain, broke through the clouds and streaked downward straight for his ship. “Never let your superstitions dictate your fate, Thaedron. Remember that.”
Thaedron’s face looked past him. “My lord!! Belowdecks, with me! I insist!” The captain grabbed out for his wrist, but Genoran pulled away and looked back at the incoming behemoth.
“Save yourself Thaedron. I have already died this day.”