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Dust and Light III

The elegant fey nobles shifted to make way for the witch’s approach, and a chill crept through my body. Every instinct screamed at me to flee.  Run, a desperate voice echoed within me,  get out of here before it’s too late!   All eyes were fixed on the old, hunched figure. She was ancient, her back bent with age, and her tattered black cloak trailed behind her like a dark shroud. A gnarled staff was clutched in her bony hands, and its tip tapped ominously against the marble floor as she strode forward. The silence in the grand hall was broken only by the eerie rhythm of her steps.

The witch’s crooked finger trembled as she pointed towards the large stone. Her voice, piercing and cold, echoed through the throne room as she barked her orders. “Put the girl on the stone,” she hissed.

A surge of primal terror coursed through me, overwhelming my senses until I couldn’t think or see straight. I lunged against the guard’s iron grip, thrashing and screaming “No!!” But my resistance was futile. Another guard appeared to secure my other arm firmly. My body convulsed with panicked resistance as they dragged me up to the cold, unforgiving surface. My wrists were bound tightly to the rusted iron bars, cutting into my skin and numbing my hands. I struggled against the restraints, muscles straining and heart racing as desperation clawed at my throat. All sense of bravery had fled my trembling body – replaced by a paralyzing fear that tightened its hold on my chest with each passing moment.

It seemed that now, my courage lay shattered on the marble floor, a mere whisper of its former strength, leaving me cold and trembling in the grips of unyielding fear.

Not like this, the panic coiled in my stomach, threatening to paralyze me. Please, anyone, help me.

The witch’s maniacal laughter pierced the air. “Oh, little Starborn,” she hummed ominously. “The moment we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived.”

With each word she spoke, ice crept through my veins, freezing me to my core. I strained against the ropes binding my wrists, desperate to break free from this nightmare.

Absinthya took her place a few paces from the stone, her regal form bathed in the eerie glow of the torches. Her red eyes fixed on me with an intensity that sent a jolt of fear through my veins. Behind her, Rohan stood stoically, his imposing figure a silent sentinel.

The witch approached the stone altar, her gnarled fingers hovering over its intricate markings. Fear clawed at my insides as she began to chant in a guttural tongue. The symbols on the altar glowed with a foreboding crimson light.

Mother, father, anyone, please… I silently begged as fear consumed me.

The witch’s incantation ripped through the air, each word like a hammer striking my already battered soul. My vision twisted and blurred, the world contorting into a grotesque nightmare. A red thread, a pulsating umbilical cord to my death, erupted from my chest with an evil hiss, coiling around the queen’s crystal like a serpent, draining every last bit of life force from my body with insatiable hunger. But it wasn’t just life force it drained – it was every stolen laugh, every whispered secret, every cherished memory. Each one ripped away from me with violent greed, leaving behind only a vast emptiness where my soul used to reside.

Agony, a symphony of searing torment, ripped through me. It was an unbearable pain, like fire coursing through my veins and melting me from the inside out.

I screamed, a primal sound that clawed its way from the depths of my being. Every fiber of my existence writhed in protest as the darkness enveloped me. My screams turned hoarse, then ragged breaths escaping my lips, each one a desperate gasp for air that never came.

Through the crimson haze of torment, a faint echo reached me – Rohan’s voice, a distant beacon of hope struggling against the encroaching darkness.“Hold on, Aerin,”  his voice pleaded, strained but unwavering. “Fight it! Don’t give in!” But I was beyond hearing, beyond reason, lost in a sea of torment.

Desperation bled through Rohan’s voice as he urged me to keep fighting. “Don’t you dare give up,” he begged.

Yet, my body betrayed me, a puppet with severed strings, convulsed in a silent, agonizing dance. My screams became choked sobs, my vision blurring by tears as the darkness threatened to engulf me completely. I was drowning in a sea of pain, my strength flickering like a fragile ember on the verge of being extinguished.

The witch’s voice wavered, a hint of frustration seeping into her chant as she sensed my rapid weakening. “She’s fading too quickly,” she said, her tone laced with irritation.

Absinthya’s voice boomed like thunder, anger fueling every syllable as she roared, “Not yet!” Her command echoed through the room.

As the torment ravaged through me, I caught a faint sound amidst the chaos—a voice calling my name. “Aerin!” Rohan’s voice echoed through the large room, not just in my mind but in the physical space around me.

Gasps and horrified murmurs erupted from the crowd mingled with the throbbing ache in my head, their voices filled with shock and disbelief.  Through the haze, I forced my head to turn, the movement a huge effort against the invisible bonds of pain. Tears streamed down my face, blurring the scene into a watercolor nightmare.

There he was, Rohan, charging towards the queen. But a horrifying transformation had stolen the silver reassurance from his eyes. They were black pits, devoid of light, as if some monstrous entity had taken hold. A strangled sob escaped me, a choked gasp.

The queen’s command sliced through the air like a whip crack. “Down, pet.”

As if yanked by invisible chains, Rohan crumpled to his knees, his muscles bulging and tendons straining against the unearthly pressure. His teeth ground together, a low, guttural sound escaping through clenched jaws as he fought against the unseen shackles.

Every agonizing inch he gained towards her was met with a brutal yank back.

“I said down!”

The sickening crunch of his bones against the cold marble floor amplified the horror unfolding before me. Curses, raw and primal, erupted from his throat,mingling with the sounds of my own screams.

“I knew I couldn’t trust you!” Absinthya’s voice rang with a chilling triumph. The crystal pendant pulsed in her hand. Her other hand clenched into a fist, aimed directly at Rohan. He flipped onto his back, a guttural scream tearing from his throat as his back arched in agony.

Desperate, I clawed at the bonds anchoring me to the altar, a silent scream building in my chest. My voice, barely a whisper, tried to reach him. A word of comfort, a plea, anything. But I was weak, overwhelmed by pain and despair. My cheeks were wet, soaked by tears. Would I ever see the light again?



Slowly, my eyes blinked open, the world around me coming into focus. I was sprawled out in the midst of a lush, flower-filled grove, surrounded by a symphony of colors. A warm, ethereal light bathed the scenery, its gentle glow casting long shadows that danced playfully among the colorful flowers. The air was alive, pulsing with the lively melody of birdsong. Their sweet songs intertwined and enveloped me in a cocoon of serenity. It was as if nature itself had orchestrated this perfect harmony, just for my own enjoyment.

And in that moment, my heart felt at peace. All the pain and despair that had once consumed me seemed to fade away, replaced by a sense of peace that washed over me like a gentle wave.

This place feels like a dream.

I gazed out at the enchanting landscape before me, taking in every detail with childlike wonder. Delicate wildflowers carpeted the forest floor in a riot of hues, their petals swaying gently in the breeze. And as I breathed in the sweet fragrance, it was like all my senses were being awakened and rejuvenated.

Towering trees stood tall and majestic around me, their branches adorned with emerald leaves that glimmered in the sunlight. The canopy above filtered golden rays of light that created whimsical patterns on the forest floor, inviting me to step into this magical world and become part of its beauty.

Maybe this isn’t real. But for now, it’s perfect.

My lips curled into a faint smile, a flicker of warmth returning to my eyes. The beauty of this ethereal realm soothed my troubled soul, offering a respite from the relentless pain that had plagued me.

Suddenly, a flash of iridescent blue caught my eye. A small figure emerged from behind a towering oak, its movements graceful and fluid. My eyes widened as I recognized him. His blue skin glowed softly in the sunlight, and his eyes sparkled with an otherworldly brilliance.

“Pip!” I exclaimed, surprised to see my old friend. The enigmatic fairy I had met during my first days in the Fae world.

“Well, if it isn’t the Starborn herself,” Pip teased, his voice laced with a hint of mischief.

“It’s been a while. What brings you here?” I murmured.

Pip’s grin widened, his eyes twinkling with amusement. “I could ask you the same, my dear Aerin. You seem to have stumbled upon a rather pleasant sanctuary.”

My brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”

Pip’s grin faltered, replaced by a fleeting shadow of concern. “Your mind has conjured this haven, Aerin, a refuge from the pain and fear that consume you. But remember, dear friend, this is not reality. The world still awaits, and you cannot remain here forever.”

My heart sank. “But I don’t want to go back,” I confessed, my voice trembling with fear. “It hurts too much.”

No, no! This… this is reality. This is where I belong. Not back there, with all that pain.

At that moment, a small figure emerged from the dense foliage, sitting down next to Pip. My eyes were immediately drawn to the child – a little boy with unruly ebony locks and gray eyes that glimmered with pure, untainted curiosity. He couldn’t have been more than three or four years old.

“Hello,” the child greeted, his voice soft in the tranquil air. “What are you doing here?”

I felt a pang of uncertainty as I met his gaze, wondering who he was and what he wanted. I forced a smile . “I’m just resting,” I replied, unsure of how to explain my presence in this ethereal realm.

Who is this child, and why does he seem so familiar?

The child tilted his head, his eyes wide with wonder. “What’s your name?” he asked, his voice filled with childlike curiosity.

My heart melted at his gentle demeanor. “I’m Aerin,” I replied. “And what’s your name?” I asked, hoping to make sense of the situation.

The child shrugged and with an innocent smile, he confessed. “I don’t know.”

Pip, with a playful grin, performed a quick trick, conjuring a cascade of iridescent soap bubbles. The child’s eyes lit up with delight, his laughter echoing through the forest as he chased after the dancing bubbles.

But I noticed something strange – the child seemed to be fading, his form becoming translucent as if he were nothing more than an illusion slowly dissipating into thin air.

“Pip!” I exclaimed. “What’s happening? Who is he? Why is he fading away?”

Pip’s gaze met mine, a hint of sorrow clouding his eyes. “The future, my friend,” he explained, his voice a gentle whisper. “A distant future, yet to be shaped. And the future, my dear, is uncertain. Especially now.”

But before I could fully comprehend the gravity of his words, Pip’s next words snapped me back to reality.

“Aerin, you need to go back,” his voice, heavy with urgency, broke the spell of tranquility. “You must go back.”

I hesitated, the thought of returning to the pain and suffering I had just escaped filling me with dread. But what choice do I have?  Deep down, I knew he was right. With a heavy heart and a sense of resignation, I nodded in agreement.

Tears pricked at the corners of my eyes as I murmured, “I hope I can see you again, my friend,” I whispered, my voice barely audible above the rustle of leaves.

Pip’s smiled, a hint of warmth in his eyes. “You will,” he said simply. “When the time’s right.”

I could feel my heart being crushed in my chest. I knew it was time to return, to face whatever trials awaited me. I can do this, I told myself, I have to. And when the agony engulfed me once again, a piercing scream escaped my lips, shattering the fragile peace of the forest and dragging me back into the cruel grip of despair.

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