This post was supposed to get the story to the end, but this scene jus’ growed and growed. So, okay, this is the second last installment of the Long Island Athanate. To come, there’s the scene that you’d expect from the last sentences of this chapter, then there’s an epilogue.
I have had some feedback in the comments, but not as many people comment as actually visit these posts…
So… some prompts. Please comment in response:
Are you enjoying the story?
Has any of it caught you by surprise?
Do you like the present tense mode of telling a story?
Do you like the split point of view, switching between Julius and Elodie?
What is the story lacking?
Or ask any questions brought up by this installment / the whole story.
I’ll post a link to a downloadable word document in the comments if you prefer to read that way.
Warder’s Court, South Prospect, Brooklyn
They kneel on either side of the woman they’ve just claimed, either as kin or toru. Julius is unsure which.
“Heal her, Julius,” Livia says.
“I can try, but—”
“Do better that that! Heal her! Swear it,” she cuts across him, grabbing his hand and lacing his fingers with Elodie’s so their hands are tied together.
Elodie has lost consciousness.
Julius opens his eukori, the Athanate mental sense that allows for sensing and influencing another person’s mental or physical state. His vision darkens. He senses them: Skylur and Livia are like terrible dark suns hanging in an alien sky above him. He forces his mind away from them, down to Elodie, and allows her sensations to flood his mind.
He sways, stunned and disoriented. He feels, as if it were a distant memory, that hands support him so he does not fall.
Elodie is dying. He knows it is entirely possible to follow someone down into death while locked together by eukori. Some Athanate die like that when their kin die. What he is trying is dangerous.
As Julius-Elodie, they know the blinding pain in their head, the pressure of it, the exhausted and feeble pulse of blood through their heart, the tired rise and fall of their chest, the whisper of air.
“Brain tumor.” Julius mumbles. “Too late.”
“You can do it! Swear,” Livia says again.
“I will heal her. On my Blood, I so swear,” he says, the words coming slowly and indistinctly.
Julius is so completely in sync with Elodie that her mouth moves to form the same words.
Julius feels Livia’s eukori touch on him. She gives him the strength to keep Elodie’s heart pounding and her lungs breathing.
I can do this. I can.
He’s aware, through Livia, that Skylur watches impassively.
He’s telling us that it’s our problem.
He can’t think about that now. He can’t talk either. He has to concentrate on this woman, Elodie, or she’ll slip away.
“Bring the three of them,” Skylur orders the security team. “Feed Mr. Barlett and let him rest in one of the rooms upstairs.”
Julius loses eukori contact with Livia and her strength ebbs from him, but he’s steadier now.
The Altau security carry him and Elodie. It’s awkward. They hold him and the woman side by side, so he can maintain physical contact with her and use his own body’s capabilities to maintain hers through the eukori link.
He can’t sustain her like this for long. He’ll have to move to the next phase, healing her. He’ll have to bite her for that.
They go down a spiral staircase. One floor. Another.
They’ll be going to the oordeelstoel, the Warder’s Seat of Judgment, but Julius loses all sense of location while he concentrates on keeping Elodie alive.
If they’d just reach wherever their going and leave him, that would help. As they walk down the steps, it’s like trying to do it carrying too many things at once. Every time he thinks he has a firm grip on Elodie’s life processes, something else fails, falls away into darkness and he has to scrabble to get it back.
It gets better when they stop.
The Altau guards lower him carefully on the floor, propped against a wall. They reposition Elodie so she is lying back against him and he has his arms around her.
“I will not let you fall,” he whispers to her, though he knows she can’t hear.
In the stillness, he tries to clear his mind. He visualizes inhaling pure light and breathing it into her body.
His fangs manifest and he bites her. Syncing with her body, his Athanate glands have formulated bio-agents to attack the growth in her head, as if it were in his own. As he bites her, these flood into her blood system.
Breathing light into her body, as he sees it.
It will do no good if her heart stops beating, so he has to stay locked with her, keeping the boundaries between their bodies blurred.
He’s never healed someone so close to death. He’s still not sure it can be done, but he gave his oath to Livia, and that might as well be his own life.
He’s aware of Skylur and Livia at the edges of his perception. He hears their voices as if down a long passage.
The guards have gone, leaving the four of them alone. He’s also aware they’re in some kind of a wide corridor that curves.
Not the oordeelstoel. That would be a conference room or a court or an auditorium.
A flicker of hope lights his heart and is dashed as he listens to what they’re saying.
“Compassion, Livia? For a human?” Skylur says.
“Ruben likes to take on hopeless cases,” Livia replies, waving it away. “And if he succeeds, maybe there will be some entertainment out of it for me.”
Livia is deliberately pushing Skylur as if she has a death-wish. Julius wants to interrupt, but he can’t even speak.
“What have you done with the other Houses?” Livia says.
Skylur smiles thinly. “Why do you care?”
“Being Basilikos might make me un-human, but it doesn’t make me un-Athanate. I care about them. I’ve cared ever since they asked Julius and me to run our association.”
“You care even for the Panethus Houses? And the humans in the Panethus Houses?” Skylur says. “If you say you care for them, how do you make a distinction between humans inside and outside of our communities?”
“I don’t make those kind of distinctions generally and I don’t hate humans, I just believe we are superior,” Livia says. “You hold a mirror up to me, Altau, as if that were all that’s required. I see myself, but what you don’t understand, is that’s not as you see me. Tell me why I’m wrong. Or at least answer my question about the other Long Island Athanate.”
Julius wishes she would hold back, but that’s not like her.
“I have done nothing, yet, with the other Houses,” Skylur says.
Julius can see both are refusing to give an inch, but it’s Skylur who has the power.
Livia has run out of patience. “So, we’ve established I am Basilikos, and I’m not going to change,” she says. “You are Panethus. We aren’t compatible. You have claimed this territory and we’re not strong enough to contest it. How do we resolve the situation?”
“You mean how am I going to resolve it?” Skylur replies. “Like this.” He presses a discreet button set in the wall against which Julius is resting.
The opposite wall cracks in the middle and begins to slide open.
There’s a darkness beyond the retreating wall, and the impression of size, of depth. A breath of air, dry and chill, carrying a hint of scent that might be sage.
Then lights begin to brighten slowly, revealing a bare arena.
The floor is sand, smoothed so that there is not a ripple in the surface.
Julius’ heart misses a beat before he can catch it, and his senses dull again as he has to concentrate on re-starting Elodie’s heart and calming his reaction.
He knows what it is, even though he’s never seen one, outside of Livia’s oldest books.
“The Warders, long before they were Warders, or Athanate Houses in the Netherlands, were old,” Skylur says. “Older even than House Flavia.”
“A Mandaviran.” Livia’s voice echoes in the chamber. She is standing right at the edge of the arena. There is awe in her tone.
Julius tries to say no, but keeping Elodie alive is taking all his effort. He stretches one hand out, as if to call Livia back, but she’s not looking.
The Mandaviran. Sometimes called the Hero’s Circle. Or the Last Place of Judgement.
It is an old and bloody tradition, so old that the books say the last sanctified Mandaviran existed in fabled Itrexia, the long-lost city of the Athanate, where the high towers of morning gazed out over the glittering Caspian Sea.
Even if it wasn’t pure myth, Itrexia is long gone. But modern Athanate books sometimes mention the Mandaviran, in a famous saying:
Beyond emotion, there is reason.
Beyond reason , there is logic.
Beyond logic, there is faith.
And beyond faith, there is only iron in the Mandaviran.
The Mandaviran is the place of the last argument of Athanate. If all other courses fail, then two sides unable to reach an agreement meet on the sand.
Livia is more than a match for anyone else Julius knows, but Skylur is older, faster, more powerful. For them to meet on the sand is merely offering Livia an honorable death.
He raises his mouth from Elodie’s neck, calls out: ‘No, Livia! Wait!”
But immediately, Elodie begins to slip away, and he has to return to healing, torn between the woman he loves and the oath she made him give.
Julius can only watch as Skylur opens a cabinet on the wall.
He brings out the glittering pelea, the one-sided armor that covers a fighter from the shoulder to the hand. It’s segmented like a lobster, heavy and slick and held by leather straps. And he brings out the kinirak, the blade. It is a sword like no other. There is a brace which lies along the forearm, with leather and chainmail straps for the top of the forearm and the wrist. The handle stands up at right angles to the brace, positioned so the wrist is never bent. The blade itself flows from the back of the brace; opposite the handle. It has an easy, graceful curve so the tip ends in line with the fist. It has all the horrific beauty of a tool designed to be perfect in its function of delivering death.
I have to heal Elodie and stop this.
Desperation gives Julius a healing strength he didn’t suspect he possessed, but progress with Elodie feels as sluggish as the flow of tar in comparison to the flickering speed with which Skylur and Livia strip off, don the pelea and fix the kinirak in place.