Sunday, July 8, 2012
Diamond Elf - Chapter 43 and Epilogue
Chelindra cried her pleasure into Aeryc's mouth as he filled her. Each held each other tight, Aeryc sitting on the bed with his legs crossed and Chelindra sitting on his lap with her legs curled around him. Aeryc kissed her tenderly, savoring the taste of her mouth.
They shifted until they were both lying on the bed, Chelindra with her back against Aeryc's chest and his arms slung over her hip. He pressed light kisses along the curve of her shoulder.
“Have you given any though to what we might name the baby?” He murmured in her ear. His hand stroking the small bulge that had taken months to form.
Chelindra moaned sleepily. “Ask me again tomorrow,” she mumbled.
The oldest elf died, but that was not so surprising. The next day, the next oldest elf died. A week later, 6 more Elves had died, and everyone was seriously ready to panic. If this continued, their race would officially die out!
Chelindra held her hand to her womb where she could just barely feel her baby move inside her. So long as her baby was still alive in there, she had hope that everything would work out.
Within a month, more than half of the Elven population had died. Those who remained looked at each other in fear. No one knew why they were dying nor how to stop the deaths.
Chelindra's belly grew ever larger, and she often spent time with Jasmine – who could not feel her baby yet but checked on the light in her womb in the scrying basin every day. They two of them prayed that they could rebuild the Elven race if necessary.
Chehiro died in his sleep. Chelindra was completely unprepared to be Queen, but took her duty seriously. She made the required pilgrimage to the Bloodstone altar, but nothing she did could penetrate her skin. She literally could not bleed for her land! She begged the Gods to help her, but they were silent.
That night, all but a handful of Elves died – including Jasmine... and her baby. Until now, Chelindra had assumed that she and Jasmine were somehow protected from death because they were carrying a child, but now she realized this wasn't true.
Chelindra wept for her people, and raged at the Gods for forsaking her. She stared at the scrying basin for hours, but it remained blank. She saw nothing but the water within.
Aeryc was the last elf to die. Once he was gone, Chelindra was completely alone. The entire Realm shook violently for days, tearing itself apart. It wasn't just the end of her race, it was the end of her world.
Chelindra sat up, and horrified scream ripping her throat up until it was raw. A tiny voice whispered in her ear. It made her blood run cold and shivers run up and down her spine.
It begins tomorrow. You've been warned. Stop it while you still can!
“What's wrong?” Aeryc shook Chelindra, but that didn't help calm her in the slightest. Her scream ended abruptly.
She couldn't breathe at all for a moment, but then she started panting. Tears poured from her eyes. “What am I supposed to do?”
Aeryc pulled her close and rocked her with his body until she calmed down. Her breathing normalized, but her heart still thundered in her chest.
“Everyone is going to die!” Chelindra wailed.
Try as he might, Aeryc couldn't get anything that made sense out of her, and so decided that his best bet was to simply continue rocking her. Eventually, she fell asleep.
A shadow fell over the land. Trees turned brown and went limp. Grass withered and plants crumbled.
The magical creatures ran toward the the Elven Palace. Chelindra could not stop sobbing as she watched them suddenly turn gray and tumble to the ground. Their now dead eyes seemed to stare at her accusingly.
You could have prevented this! They seemed to say. You could have saved us!
“How?!” Chelindra demanded. She was so filled with emotion – rage, fear, panic, sorrow – that she was literally shaking. “What is it that I was supposed to do? How was I supposed to stop this?!”
A single fairly made it to Chelindra. Her normally golden glittery dust was dull and white. She glared at Chelindra venomously.
“You've murdered us all!” The fairy spat just before she died and fell to the ground.
Chelindra was screaming again. She fought off Aeryc's concerned embrace and leapt from the bed. Her terror caused her to trip, and she was grateful for the pain in her palms and knees when she landed. It jarred her back to reality, and she stopped screaming.
Beating her fists on the floor, she sobbingly demanded. “What do you want from me?!”
“Chelindra... You're scaring me,” Aeryc admitted seriously. He stared at her from the edge of the bed.
Sunlight blinded her, and for a moment, everything looked like it was on fire. The whole world was on fire, and even it couldn't kill her. She alone existed in a world that had returned to the primordial lava that fertilized the land.
She shook her head and reassured herself that she was still laying on the floor of her bedroom in the Elven Palace.
“Chehiro...” Chelindra muttered. The silken sheet tangled in her feet as she struggled to stand, so she yanked on it to pull it off the bed and then absently wrapped it around her nude body.
Aeryc hastily grabbed a robe and donned it as he followed her. She ran flat out through the Palace corridors, letting instinct guide her. Her hair had solidified as she slept, so it was an awkwardly shaped mess bunched up in lumps. If she was thinking, she would never have allowed anyone to see her hair like this.
Chehiro was eating breakfast in the breakfast room with most of the inhabitants of the Palace. He was so startled when she burst into the room that his mouth gaped open ever so slightly. His hand held his fork halfway between his plate and head.
“I have to stop it!” Chelindra shouted. “Everyone is going to die! The whole world is going to end and it's up to me to stop it! I don't know what to do!” She devolved into sobs.
Aeryc shook his head and shrugged in bafflement. “She had nightmares.”
Chehiro recovered his composure and set his fork down. His face was completely smooth as he replied to his sister. Other Elves were still in mild shock at Chelindra's outburst, and watched silently.
“My dear sister, you are pregnant,” he stated dryly. “Ask any of the elders. Pregnancy is plagued with emotional upheavals, nightmares, and a general feeling that you must do whatever it takes to ensure the survival of your child. I am almost certain that you haven't meditated in a while to keep yourself calm. I insist that you return to your room, meditate for as long as it takes, and then dress properly before joining us.”
“This is not simply a quirk of pregnancy, Chehiro!” Chelindra shrieked. “I'm telling you; everyone's going to die. It starts today! The oldest elf will die, and then the second oldest. Everyday someone else will die until everyone is gone! And then the entire world will start to shake and the rest of the creatures in the Realm will perish. There will be nothing left but lava. An ocean of lava burning me until...”
An elf in her 500s gently placed a hand on Chelindra's arm. Once she was certain that the deadly Princess wasn't going to harm her, she embraced her comfortingly.
“The King is right, my dear. All pregnant elves have nightmares about the end of the world. It means nothing or else none of us would be here.”
The room was silent as Chelindra forced herself to patiently figure out how to explain this so that they would believe her. The Palace shook ever so slightly. No one would have noticed it if they hadn't been so utterly still.
There was a sudden thunk, and every turned to find the cause. A small gasp escaped Jasmine.
The oldest elf had literally just died. It was her forehead hitting the table that had caught everyone's attention. Elves looked at each other, silent questions shining in their eyes.
“You see?!” Chelindra demanded desperately. “You see?! I'm not simply suffering from nightmares. My visions are real, and I have to stop them!”
Chehiro nearly felt the urge to roll his eyes. “Fine,” he said smoothly. “Let us say – for argument's sake – that your visions are real. How exactly are you supposed to stop them from happening?”
“I don't know!” Chelindra roared. “That's why I'm so upset! The Gods keep telling me I must do something, but they won't tell me what!”
Chehiro looked completely blank for a moment. No matter what, he was determined not to let her get to him. “Well, what you are describing – the shaking of the world and everything covered in lava – that will never happen unless royal blood is not spilled onto the land.”
Chelindra narrowed her eyes and looked pointedly at her brother. A moment passed in silence. “Exactly. In my visions, you die and I can't find any way to make myself bleed. That's when things get really bad...”
Chehiro actually had to struggle to control his emotions, but his pale face announced them anyway. He had long considered this possibility, but assumed that Chelindra would eventually come up with a solution to the problem. He shook his head.
“Your visions are simply the baby's way of making you want to care for and protect it. Now, please stop frightening the people and go back to your room! At the very least get dressed and fix your hair... It's simply atrocious.”
Chelindra unconsciously rubbed a hand over her hair, realized that it really was horribly messy, and blushed. She sighed in defeat. Now that she had explained her visions to everyone, she felt calmer. It was still imperative that she figure out what to do, but he was right. She wasn't going to solve anything standing here in a sheet with her hair doing something ghastly.
She nodded meekly, and then left the breakfast room. One hand clutched the sheet absentmindedly, and her other responded to a growl from her stomach by snatching a large pink apple from the buffet table.
Aeryc followed her, also gabbing a few tibits to bring with him. The moment they were out of hearing range, he cleared his throat.
“Are you certain your visions were real?” He asked.
“Yes!” She insisted.
“They can't be,” he whispered, a hint of fear coloring his voice.
Chelindra slumped a little, her step faltering. “Well... now that I've calmed down, it does have a dream-like quality to it, but Aeryc...”
She turned to face him completely. “It is true that the Gods have talked to me. They've often hinted that they made me for a reason. They made you for a reason too, and now they're telling me that I need to save the world. How can I ignore them?”
“How can you be sure that it's the Gods telling you this and not your own mind simply playing tricks on you?” Aeryc wondered.
Chelindra sighed. Without anyone willing to believe in her, it was getting harder to maintain her conviction. She was starting to believe that it really was all just in her head.
At dinner, Chelindra was completely composed. She sat at her brother's side across from her husband while they waited for everyone to be seated and the food to be served.
Jasmine looked tired. Her eyes held the tiniest hint of red, as if she had been crying. Her grandmother had died, so it was understandable that she'd be upset.
She looked up at Chelindra, and Chelindra suddenly knew that Jasmine believed her.
An elderly elf in his 800s daintily escorted his wife into the dinning hall. She had one hand pressed to her chest as if she was in pain, but otherwise showed no other signs that anything was wrong. She looked good for an elf of 956.
A moment later, she fell to the floor. Her husband immediately bent over to help her up, wondering what she had tripped over. Her eyes were frozen, no longer able to see anything now that her body had given up on life.
Her husband searched her for a pulse, but then looked up helplessly at King Chehiro. “She's dead.”
Chehiro tried to be gentle. “She was old... It was simply her time to go...”
“I know,” the new widower agreed softly. He calmly gathered her into his arms, surprised at how light she was. Inside, his heart was slowly aching, but death was not something elves feared. Rather, they welcomed it.
These days, more and more elves were dying too soon. It was standard for almost all elves to reach their 1000th birthday before they died. Sometimes they even reached their 1100 birthday! Never before in history had more than one elf in 2-3000 years died while still in their 900s!
Yet – counting Princess Chandra – 3 elves in their 900s had died in just the past few months alone...
Chelindra felt her blood freeze as she realized all over again that her visions really were real.
That night, nightmares plagued Chelindra causing her to toss and turn, but thankfully, she didn't sit up screaming. By morning, she'd moved from near panic to a sort of acceptance. The world was going to end, and there was nothing she could do about it.
She gasped as she sat up. Her hair was naturally still in the braid that she'd created before going to bed, and she wore a silk nightgown that covered her modestly. This was a good thing because once again she rushed from her room.
She unintentionally created a loud banging noise when she pushed on the doors to the breakfast room – which were half closed for some reason – and caused them to slam into the wall. Her brother and the few that had already joined him for breakfast jumped in alarm.
“I figured it out!” Chelindra announced. “This all started when the border to the Human Realm was closed. If we open it, the deaths will stop!”
“Chelindra,” Chehiro said, almost sounding frustrated. “We've been through this. I will not open the border until the Humans can be trusted implicitly.”
“But don't you see?! They aren't supposed to be closed this long! Never before in history were they ever closed longer than 100 years... We are literally stifling ourselves!” Chelindra argued passionately.
“No. I will not be swayed by an emotional theory based on nothing more than speculation and fear.”
Chelindra roared in frustration. Knowing that nothing she could say would make him change his mind, she turned and practically stomped all the way back to her room.
Throughout the day, 3 more elves died suddenly. The 3rd one managed to make it through dinner, but then suddenly fell out of his chair onto the floor.
Chelindra stood abruptly and slammed her hands on the table. “How many more must die before you listen to me?!”
Chehiro said nothing and wouldn't look at her. Instead, he stood and addressed his subjects. “I shall go meditate by the scrying basin. Hopefully, the Gods will tell me what must be done.”
“I told you what must be done!” Chelindra roared indignantly, but he ignored her.
Aeryc quietly insisted that they return to their room. He hinted that the baby made her tired easily, and that she should try resting. She wanted to spit fire at him, but grudgingly complied.
Chelindra floated on top of the lava. Her diamond skin and hair were unfazed by the extreme heat and she had no other choice. There was no where that wasn't lava! As far as she had swam each day – for countless days – she had not found so much as a scrap of land. This wasn't just an ocean of fiery molten rock – and ocean would eventually end – this was an entire world of primordial lava.
According to Elven legends, the lava would eventually cool, and the land formed would be fertile. Life would begin again... around a million years from now!
Mama! A tiny voice cried out. Help me!
It was so faint by now that Chelindra could barely hear it anymore. It had started out strong and insistent, but as time passed, it slowly faded. Chelindra had long ago stopped asking it how she was supposed to help. There was simply nothing she could do.
Time passed, and there was nothing. No faint voice, no movement in her womb, nothing. Then the pain came.
“No!” Chelindra sobbed. “It's still too soon! I think I am only 13 or 14 months along!”
Even if Chelindra was having a normal Elven pregnancy – which she wasn't sure she was – 14 months was not enough for the baby to survive. They baby needed to grow at the very least 18 out of the 21 months to be born and live.
The pain seemed to last forever, but eventually, she felt the baby pass into the lava. She reached for it, but to her horror, it melted before she could see more than a black and charred lump.
Lava got inside, almost as if it was swimming up her bloodstream into her womb. She screamed, and part of her hoped that she was finally going to join all her loved ones in death.
Sitting up in bed, Chelindra clutched her chest, and then started sobbing. She wrapped her arms around her slightly bulging abdomen and rocked back and forth.
“Chelindra...” Aeryc murmured, hoping he could somehow comfort her this time.
She had been far too distraught to make love the previous evening, so – once again – she was wearing a nightgown with perfectly braided hair. It wouldn't have mattered in the slightest because she was utterly beyond caring what she looked like by now.
“My baby...” Chelindra muttered over and over.
“Is something wrong with the baby?” Aeryc demanded, shaking her in his concern to get the point across that he needed her to answer him.
“Not yet, not until the whole world is covered in lava...” Chelindra explained morosely.
Aeryc sighed in profound relief, a hand covering hers on her womb. “Please don't scare me like that!”
“Scare you!” Chelindra shrieked. “What about me?! I'm going to have to live through it!”
She jumped out of bed and ran out their door.
Aeryc sighed. Yesterday, he had followed her at a more seemingly pace, but today he was still exhausted. Her nightmares had made it impossible for him to sleep either, and try as he might, he simply could not force himself to get out of bed.
Meanwhile, Chelindra was running like her life depended on it, which – in a way – it did. She didn't run to the breakfast room, doing so would simply be a waste of her time. Instead, she ran to the throne room.
It was empty at this time of day since everyone who was already awake was in the breakfast room. Chelindra went to the dais and grabbed the sacred scepter. It was the tool used by the reigning King or Queen to magically protect the land.
It was the key to closing or opening the border between the Realms...
The Elven Realm has always existed separately from the human realm. They are completely different worlds that just so happen to overlap just a tiny bit. The overlapping was entirely energetic rather than physical.
This made the two realms neighbors of sorts, but instead of sharing a wall or a fence – something physical that could be seen and touched – they shared something like a magnetic field. It kept the two Realms together, but did not prevent them from traveling to visit each other.
In fact, in the few places in the Human Realm where the magnetic field was thick enough for even the most magically empty humans to feel it, the field was the doorway between the Realms. All one needed to do was simply step through it.
The First King of the Elves was given the Sacred Scepter by the Gods themselves. They clearly saw that they Humans had plenty of capacity for violence and war, and wanted to give the Elves a peaceful way of protecting themselves from the Humans when necessary.
The Scepter contained the power to reverse the magnetic field, effectively shutting the door between the realms. Along with this, the Gods gave the First King the power to create his own doorway so that he could travel himself or send someone to talk peace with the humans.
That ability was passed along to everyone in the royal line. The Border is literally tuned to their blood, just as the land is linked to their blood. Their blood was a sacred offering to the Gods in exchange for eternal peace and prosperity.
Chelindra gripped the Scepter firmly, staring at it in indecision. Deciding that she had no choice, she ran out of the throne room, through the long corridors, and then deep into the magical Labyrinth underneath the Palace. It was a magical ward of sorts. It symbolized a lot of different magic – protection, healing, longevity, serenity...
Chelindra had been required to walk the Labyrinth several times a year until she finally memorized it entirely. Now, she ran through it without even having to think about it. In the very center was a small temple to the Gods.
Chelindra slowed down as she entered the temple, and then came to a full stop. Considering that the Labyrinth was underground, it was utterly dark. Magic globes lit as she approached them, giving her a soft hazy glow to see by, but now...
Torches lit themselves until the temple was practically ablaze with light!
Chelindra reverently stepped up to the altar. Unlike the actual Palace, this Labyrinth and the temple were made completely out of earth. Sacred living earth, the element of foundation and stability.
Getting to her knees, she held out the Sacred Scepter. “I – Chelindra, Princess of the Elven Realm, Heir to the Throne – hereby open the border between the Realms!”
She heard a sound like a relieved sigh, and then felt a strange pressure. It built up for several moments until it silently popped... Immediately, the energy in the temple felt about a hundred times better.
Taking a deep breath, Chelindra continued. “I thank the Gods for their gift, but it is long past time to give it back. This Scepter is no longer needed! Never again shall the border between the Realms be closed!” She announced dramatically, and then smashed the orb at the top of the Scepter by striking it on the ground. It shattered into shards that sprayed everywhere.
A voice laughed. “Foolish child! While it is true that the Borders need not be closed so long as you are around to protect the Elven race...”
Another voice took over. “There will come a time when it is needed once more.”
Chelindra watched as a bowl formed itself out of earth on the altar. The myriad of shards floated until they rested in the bowl. They glittered with a soft and sparkly light.
“Place the rod in front of the bowl.”
Chelindra did as commanded.
“When the time comes, your royal heir – no matter how far down the line – may come here and ask for the Scepter again.”
The second voice waited a moment, and then continued. “Now go, but before you do, know this; your brother not wrong in his desire to protect his people. His only mistake was that he waited too long to consult the Gods in this matter. He was afraid that opening the Border would give the humans access to kill all the Elves in one large massacre instead of letting them die slowly they way they are.”
The first voice took up the explanation once more. “He did not know that his action would result in the very massacre he so desperately tried to prevent. Do not blame him...”
“And do not blame yourself. You did not know that when you shattered the Scepter, you were severing his connection to the throne. He has been released from his duty to the people, and is now at the side of the Gods.”
Chelindra paled. “No...” she exhaled in devastation.
“Yes, child. He is at peace now. You have three days to make the pilgrimage to the Bloodstone,” the second voice warned her.
Chelindra couldn't stop the sudden return of her frustration and tears. “But nothing I do makes me bleed! How am I supposed to make the sacrifice?”
“You must atone for a multitude of deaths,” the first voice reminded her. “And there will likely be more in the future. Penance and sacrifice! Those are your duties. Gabriel is guarding something of yours...”
“He holds the key...” the second voice added cryptically.
Chelindra bit her lip in thought.
The very first thing Chelindra did was have her brother's body prepared. She had no need to explain what she had done because the Elves could all feel it for themselves. The very air felt fresher!
She was required to keep vigil over his body all night, in case the Gods decided to send him back – which had happened on occasion in the past – but Chelindra was fairly confident that the Gods planned to keep him. As she sat – not long after dawn – Jasmine came to her.
“Princess – er Queen Chelindra...?” Jasmine politely asked for an audience as she carefully arranged her skirts in order to kneel at Chelindra's feet.
“Yes,” Chelindra murmured softly.
“I am desperately in love with the father of my child. I was promised by your brother that if I still wanted to bring him here in a few months, that he would personally open a doorway to let me go invite him here... It's been more than a few months, and I miss him so much that my heart aches unbearably! Please! I will do whatever you ask! Please let me go get him!”
Chelindra was surprised; she'd had no idea that Jasmine was in love! She knew the elf was pregnant – of course – but she didn't know who the father was.
“I surmise that the baby's father is a human?”
Jasmine nodded. “Yes... Jacen, he's –”
“Jacen!” Chelindra blurted out in astonishment. “You want to invite Jacen into the Elven realm?! That's – That's!” She fumbled for the right words.
“I know...” Jasmine looked to the hands clutched tightly together in her lap. “He's the Emperor's personal bodyguard. He's important and deadly and dangerous... but I love him. I need to be with him.”
She looked up at Chelindra, her eyes hardening in determination. “You can't keep me in the Realm any longer! I can leave anytime I want! I will go to him if you won't let him come to me!”
Chelindra finally cast her incredulity aside, and sighed. “Fine... He is welcome here so long as he never harms so much as a hair on an elf's head.”
“Except mine,” Jasmine muttered with a lovey-dovey blush.
Chelindra laughed. “Yes, I suppose that you would be an exception to that rule... to a point.”
Jasmine threw her arms around Chelindra, squeezing her in an exuberant hug. “Thank you!” She then impulsively kissed Chelindra
Chelindra was secretly happy that at least one of her subjects was not afraid of her. Many of the others seemed to be avoiding her after all the recent events – not to mention her long history of being an invincible warrior.
“Go on... use the portal,” Chelindra granted permission. She gestured for Aeryc to come closer as Jasmine ran off.
He held a hand out to her with a smile. “You need me?”
Chelindra stood and slipped her hand in his. “We should follow her. I want to be on hand when they return.”
Aeryc nodded. He kissed her simply because he felt the urge. His kiss delayed them for a moment, but they managed to get to the portal before Jasmine returned.
The portal was a physical representation of the various natural magnetic field ones, except it had been spelled to bring the traveler anywhere they envisioned. Chelindra was certain Jasmine had envisioned Jacen, since she could clearly see him on the other side.
The couple watched as Jacen practically leapt to Jasmine's side. It looked like he had also chosen love above all else. Chelindra hid a smile.
I supposed he always was an honorable and decent human in his own way.
Chelindra did her best not to look in Gabriel's direction, but stole one glance at him before looking away. Gabriel was staring at Jacen and Jasmine in astonishment mixed with genuine happiness for them.
Amara looked beside herself with joy. Chelindra was glad to see that she was apparently enjoying married life.
She and Aeryc stepped to the side so that they weren't in the way of the returning couple. Jacen carried Jasmine, and asked which way to go. Jasmine indicated her bedroom, but Chelindra stopped them.
She gave him a seriously appraising look and knew that he was suddenly remembering that Chelindra was a member of the Royal family here. She could literally do anything she wanted to him!
Determining that she had made him squirm long enough, Chelindra softened. “Welcome to the Elven Realm.”
Jacen nodded in thanks, and then Chelindra tilted her head in a gesture that said, “Go on, get reacquainted!”
Jacen grinned, and forced himself not to run as he carried Jasmine to her room.
Chelindra watched them go, and then faced her husband once more. “I have something important I must do. This won't take long.”
“May I come with?” Aeryc asked.
Chelindra shrugged, and then nodded. “Why not?”
Together, they stepped through the still open doorway.
“What in the name of the First Emperor are you doing here?!” Gabriel's father demanded.
Amara squealed happily and launched herself into Chelindra's arms. Nearly six months had passed since Amara's wedding, and her belly rounded nicely as a result. She only looked a tiny bit bigger than Chelindra, who rubbed Amara's tummy lovingly.
With one arm still around Amara, Chelindra smiled at Gabriel. It hurt to see him, but only a tiny little bit.
“You have something of mine that you're keeping safe, and I need it back,” Chelindra informed him cryptically because she honestly had no idea what the Gods were talking about!
Gabriel nodded. “Do you want me to bring it to you right now, or do you plan to visit for a bit before returning home?”
Chelindra inhaled in indecision. Aeryc came to her rescue.
“I'm afraid we simply have no time. His Majesty King Chehiro died – as have several other elves recently – and his funeral is in less than an hour. After that, Chelindra – now Queen of the Realm – needs to start her Pilgrimage to the Bloodstone to make her sacrifice to the Gods.”
Gabriel frowned in confusion, that particular subject had never come up during the many nights he and Chelindra talked about the Elven Realm. Amara, on the other hand, had talked about the Bloodstone with Aeryc since it was one of the sights he'd shown her on her tour.
She hugged Chelindra once more. “I'm so sorry to hear that you lost your brother.”
Gabriel excused himself. His father spent the entire 5 minutes he was gone grumbling that Gabriel hadn't simply sent a servant to fetch whatever it was. Finally, Gabriel was back. He held out a wooden box about 10 inches by 10 inches by 5 inches with a grim expression.
Chelindra felt that the occasion called for solemn gratitude, so she gave him a small smile, taking the box into her arms. “Thank you.”
He nodded, his grim softening. “To be honest, I'm a bit relieved to be rid of it.”
Chelindra grasped for any excuse to linger, but her husband gently nudged her. She suppressed a sigh.
“We really have to go, but I fully plan to return for a proper visit as soon as I can.”
Gabriel's right hand twitched as if he longed to hug her or even merely touch her arm to convey his sympathy, but he controlled himself. Chelindra had to force herself to take a step towards the portal, but after that it was much easier. She and Aeryc waved from the other side before mentally commanding the portal to close.
Chelindra closed her eyes and slowly exhaled. The stinging of unshed tears soon stopped.
“Are you 100% certain you want me to do this?” Jacen asked for at least the 5th time.
Chelindra nodded, not bothering to say it out loud yet again. She placed her hands against the wall, and braced herself for what would hopefully be some pain.
Once Chelindra had figured out what needed to be done, she'd explained it to Aeryc, and he fainted! After he came to, he hastily assured her that he couldn't do what needed to be done. As a result, Chelindra had asked Jacen to do it.
Jacen examined the whip in his hands thoroughly a second time. His hands actually trembled nervously. It was true that he had tortured and inflicted pain on more people than he cared to remember, but this time was different.
This victim was a Queen, the only person of royal blood left in a land that literally required someone of royal blood to rule, and she was pregnant! Worse, this weapon was far deadlier than anything he had ever held...
With just one flick of her wrist, Chelindra had actually cut someone in half with this whip! Jacen really didn't want to think about what could happen to Chelindra. Only the certain knowledge that her skin was impenetrable gave him the confidence to at least try performing the task she had given him.
He took a deep breath, and then administered a relatively light stroke of the whip. Chelindra made a sizzling noise, but then sighed.
“Even without looking, I can tell you didn't make me bleed. You need to whip me mercilessly! Surely you can do that after so many years of practice...”
Jacen squared his shoulders, determined to do as she had asked him to. At first, he had thought her crazy, but after she had shown him in the scrying basin what would happen if she didn't make her penance and sacrifice to the Gods, he agreed without a second thought.
He was having them now, but he pushed them to the back of his mind and locked them in a small compartment. Raising his arm, he struck her much more confidently.
Chelindra gasped, then cried out, “Again!”
She was braced against a wall but standing naked on the Bloodstone. It was a large slab in the ground formed from a solid sheet of sacred living earth. Over the years, so much blood had been spilled on it that it was permanently stained with a shimmering dark red glow.
Jacen struck again. “How long do I have to do this?”
“Until the Gods are satisfied,” Chelindra informed him, suppressing any indication of pain for the moment. She could feel blood oozing from the last two welts.
“And how will I know when they are satisfied?” Jacen wondered.
“The stone will suddenly light up like a red sun.”
“I see,” Jacen murmured, and then struck her again. Now that he was certain that the whip wouldn't slice her in half, he started putting his all into each stroke.
Another lash of the whip.
Chelindra was screaming without any shame or concern for the noise she was making. Her back was a bloody mess of welts, but aside from the pain, the wounds weren't really serious enough to truly bleed. As a result, only a small scattering of blood had fallen on the stone so far.
Now Chelindra's back was dripping blood, and she could feel it running down the back of her legs. She rested her head on the wall with her arms and sobbed.
“Are you sure this isn't enough?” Jacen questioned.
“Again,” Chelindra commanded as firmly as she could between sobs.
Suddenly, the Bloodstone lit up, and Chelindra collapsed in relief. She rested – sitting on her feet – for a moment, before shifting to lie on her back. The cool energy of the stone soothed her and absorbed all the excess blood gushing from her back.
She waited until she could speak relatively calmly. “I, Chelindra – Queen of the Elven Realm – hereby offer my blood to the Gods as the sacrifice I owe them as agreed to by my ancestor the First King. In exchange, the land is bound to my magic, and – so long as I do not break this bond – shall always grow abundantly granting prosperity to all who live here.”
She paused. That was the official end of the ritual, but she had to add a tiny bit more. “My blood and the pain I endured to give it shall also be my atonement. Proof that I truly am sorry for all the lives I've taken. May they rest in peace and walk with their Gods in paradise.”
The glow got dramatically brighter until it seemed to explode. The magical energy from the blast traveled out in all directions until it covered the entire Realm. The ground shook slightly as the damage that had been done over the past 300 years started to fix itself.
Jacen went completely white a moment later when a voice came from thin air!
“Well done child,” it praised. “You have averted disaster, saved your people, and brought peace to the Human Realm. May your reign be long and fruitful!”
“Thank you!” Chelindra smiled. Her unborn child swam around inside her, and she placed her hands on her womb. Tears of joy ran from her eyes as the Gods silently reassured her that this child definitely would not die and melt in an endless ocean of lava.
“Thank you,” she repeated so reverently that she was almost silent.
The Gods stroked her cheek lovingly with intangible and invisible hands, and then were gone. A moment later, Jacen held out his hand to help her up, and then handed her the simple dress she had worn for the ceremony.
She twisted side to side for a moment trying to determine the extent of the damage to her back, but couldn't really get a good view. Jacen cautiously held her still.
“Your back is still bleeding ever so slightly. It looks like most of the welts – all but the most severe I presume – are healing already.”
“I really didn't expect that,” Chelindra murmured thoughtfully. “I figured that diamonds would take a long time to grow back together.”
“Well, the blood seems to have dried in places to form a crust. My guess is that you'll probably have some scars, but still be invincible in practically no time at all.”
Chelindra nodded, and then asked him to carry the box containing the whip on the way back to the Palace. They walked in companionable silence.
To Chelindra's delight, during the next 6 months, every female elf young enough to still carry a child – even if they were in their 400s or 500s – and in one case 600s! - suddenly conceived.
Not only had Chelindra saved her race, she had made it possible for the Elves to continue on. This made her grin like a fool! She was even caught humming from time to time.
She rested her hands on her slowly growing belly, and prayed that he or she grew healthy and strong. Too bad it takes so long to meet my child! I'm so excited I can hardly wait!
The future looked sunny indeed.