Chapter 4: The Daemon of Light
by Julian Lawler
She heard the leader sheath his sword. She felt him move around her until she was looking at his feet. He knelt before her. He ran a hand through her dirty black hair. She winced as he grabbed a fistful and yanked her head up to face his. His wicked smile must have been etched on his face permanently. His cold blue eyes were colder now. She shivered and this time it wasn’t because of the cold droplets that fell about them from the trees.
“Now,” he said steadily, “you answer me one thing.” His face was so close to hers, she could smell his breath. And going against every thought she had for this man, his breath smelled of sweet essences a definite contract to her pain and troubles.
When she didn’t respond, he pulled her closer, lifting her body roughly. She felt hair come out of their roots. “Why do you do this to me?” she whispered up at him. The words were barely a croak.
He heard them, nonetheless, and it gave him pause.
“You?” His laugh was a cackle. Her ears were drowned with the sea of laughter that ensued. Her mind reeled and she felt trapped again, only this time there wasn’t a dark room to keep her enclosed, there were no knives piercing her flesh, and there were no men having there way with her.
“You are no woman,” he said finally, when he had exhausted his charade. “You are a daemon, and daemons must pay. You took Galim Elden from us. Now we take the world from you.”
He let her head fall and unable to hold her neck up it landed with a soft thud. She felt like screaming but instead heard her words coming out in a mumble. Finally, she heard her self yell out from somewhere far away. “I am a Light Bearer!”
The yell took more than she had. With that, she turned into herself, no longer feeling the soft patter of lifeless droplets coming from the trees above. She couldn’t feel the stings and the bruises, or her cut lip. She couldn’t feel the dwindling flame that was her life force trying to stay alive. She couldn’t feel the bruises along her scalp. She couldn’t sense the man standing over her as he raised his weapon to end the whole ordeal. All she could feel was the gathering of the light about her.
It came slowly. Then it rushed into her soul, reviving her to her full capacity as a human being. Suddenly, she was herself again. Unbeaten and unconquerable, she was the unstoppable leader the people loved. Almost immediately she could sense the rain, the mud beneath her, the forest around her. As the blade came down, she let herself be consumed by the powers of the light.
Her entire body ignited into a huge mass of flames as bright as the sun. Her light threw shadows all across the forest. The man’s sword melted as it sank into her neck. Men shielded their eyes and fell back. Some men fell to their knees. Weapons were dropped as men gave in to their fears and began yelling. They thought she was a daemon of light, the most horrendous thing the world could imagine. She was to them what they called a dremion, a minion of the night that corrupted all that belonged to the day. She had taken their lord Galim Elden for the strongest of reasons. They had retaliated against her for the wrong ones. She would show them what they feared. She would make them pay. She was neither of what they believed her to be.
She was something far worse.
Black beady eyes stared back from a glowing body at the man holding the melted sword at her neck. He let the pommel fall uselessly at his side. He stared wide-eyed at her and before he could recover from his stunned condition, she made it his last act. With a blow that could fell a large horse, she took the man in the throat. He fell wordlessly and she pressed her attack. Before the rest could retaliate, she reached for the next closest man and delivered a spine crunching blow to his back. The man went down without so much as a scream. The other men weren’t so slow, though.
She twirled on her feet and was barely able to dodge a wild swing. She had to throw herself as another man lunged for her. It was all she could do to keep steel from entering her body as she rolled on the ground. A man jumped to catch her as she came up and he swung for her head. She saw him way before her roll came to a stop and when he was almost upon her, she released a volley of light into his stomach. The man flew several paces back and rammed into a tree.
She came to her feet and went into a crouch as she took a deep breath and released her light. A flash as bright as the sun emanated from her for a brief instant, blinding most of the men who had not bolted at a dead run. Everything within a twenty-foot radius caught fire. Trees were burnt to a crisp and a large burnt circle blemished the forest floor. For the men who were caught too close, only a charred stump remained of their once well-trained bodies. The smell of burned flesh filled the air. Hissing sounds rose from the ground as rain gained entrance into the newly formed clearing. Where the trees had been so close to her, a night sky peeked out above the remaining tree line.
She spun around to find the leader of the group standing in front of her, watching her closely. Four men stood behind him, weapons held at the ready, their bodies tense and ready to jump. Behind the five men, the rest of the band had run off. Their forms were mere shadows in the gloominess of the forest. The rain kept their receding steps from her ears. She was surprised to find the last five men could stand the heat left radiating where her fire had been. She expected their boots to melt in any second.
She stared at the remaining souls unflinchingly. She could feel the hatred coming from them, and for a split second she felt as cold as they did. She was in control of the light again and if these men wanted battle, she would give them battle.
“What have you done?” asked the leader again. “Do your evil acts never cease?” They all nodded agreement. She was suddenly aware that their weapons were glowing softly.
“Why must we fight?” she asked. She had been beaten, raped, hurt, scarred, and humiliated for the sake of pleasure by these men, yet she could not bring herself to kill them. “I have done nothing to you. I only seek the light, and nothing else. If you come any closer, I will destroy you. Believe me, I will.”
“No, you won’t, my dear.” The man stepped forward again. “I could have destroyed you back in Elden, when you took my most beloved friend. But no, instead I chose to humiliate you. I chose to let my men have their way with you so you could see how it felt. So you could see how it feels to be forced into something. Now that the lesson has been taught, you must die.”
She stared at the blonde man with concern in her eyes. “You don’t understand.” She now knew that nobody understood. “You think I’m evil, but I’m not. I love everything about life. I love the light of day more than I love myself, and you call me a dremion.”
The blonde man stared back at her unconcerned. “You have wronged the people of Elden! Now the people and all the lands will learn of your treachery.” The five men started advancing on her. She backed away from them readying her light-fire. She could feel it underneath her skin, waiting for release.
“I have wronged no one,” she began, “except myself. Surely, you understand that I took Galim Elden into my embrace because I loved him.” She shook her head sadly, feeling her wet hair stick to her face. “I didn’t know I would destroy him. How was I supposed to know?” But she knew this was a lie. The men weren’t listening, she knew. She felt as she was speaking to herself, to convince herself that her act against Galim Elden hadn’t been a selfish one.
How was she to know? Doubt flooded her mind, and for the first time, her world seemed to rock. She was a proud lady and nothing had ever shocked her as much as her own deep thoughts. This was no exception. She continued to move away from the advancing men, deliberating with her thoughts. Her body glowed softly, illuminating the forest area around her. The light cast odd shadows on to the faces of the determined men before her. They looked wicked and altered.
“But I loved him,” she said softly. “I never would have hurt that man willingly.” It was a lie. She had hurt him willingly because he had refused her. She had loved him, but Galim Elden had not loved her. For that fact alone, her light destroyed him. Her eyes took on a glazed look. She began to mumble. She felt herself receding into her own mind. Her steps became unsteady and faltering. “Am I a daemon of light? No, I can’t be. My whole life has been a lie, then.” She was unaware of the five men that were surrounding her, their weapons glowing brightly against her own light.
She struggled against herself, trying to defeat the realization that was consuming her. But she knew she would not escape. She wouldn’t escape her own imprisonment and her captors. With one swift act, it would all be over. She could end it all. She could stop the killing: just one last final act.
She let her light form wink out, and the men didn’t hesitate to jump at her.
Five weapon points sank deep into her, making her body jerk and jolt with pain. She gurgled up blood as it spilled out of her mouth and onto the forest floor. Blood dripped down her legs in rivulets, and tears streaked her face.
With waning effort, she brought her arm slowly to wipe the tears from her eyes or was it rain? She gave short, shallow breaths and coughed when she inhaled too deeply. With her free arm, her other arm was pinned by an ax to her side she picked black strands of hair off her face. Soon, she thought. It will be all over soon.
A grim realization came to mind, so close to death as she was. She had loved Galim Elden. She had loved him more than life itself, and her power had destroyed him. She had acted selfishly and jealously. But things like that could be forgiven, she knew. So she forgave herself. She was paying the price now. What she wouldn’t give to have him back. She smiled then. The doubt was no longer there. She could see, even in her dying throes, that she was no daemon. The realization had brought something else to her, release.
“What... is... your... name, please?” She gasped. The men had done nothing to remove their weapons from her, but she was glad. They were the only things holding her up. She was beyond pain, now, and was running out of time. She vowed to make these men pay for their actions. They had not bothered to understand and for that they could not get away.
The blonde man watched her wearily. “Why?” he asked, as he pulled his sword free.
“Because I want to know the names of the men that killed me,” she said clearly and matter-of-factly. “You have released me, and I thank you.”
She hung her head down, letting her life ebb away, and could barely keep her eyes open to peer at the blonde man. Rain was seeping into her eyes. The leader was walking to the man at his left, a hungry yet pleased look on his face.
The man bowed as his lord came up behind him. Icy, cold, blue eyes stared at her. “My lady, this is Jistan Rhu.” The man pulled his glowing dagger out of her, and she slumped down. Three men were keeping her up.
The blonde man moved to the next. “This is Eloras Elden, son of your sweet love.” With a growl, the young man pulled his glowing ax from her side. She was almost on her knees. Was that her arm on the floor?
The leader continued down the line. “This man here is my best friend,” his voice was coming from somewhere behind her. “His name is Alenthas Durina.” She felt herself get closer to the ground.
“Ah, stay with me, dear. I am not done.” She felt him move to her opposite side. “This man here is Oldan Camdrel.” She wasn’t allowed to touch the floor. She didn’t even know how she still heard the man. She knew she was already dead. Yet, she was still there. The blonde man came to stand before her. How was she still in the world of the living? It was beyond comprehension. “My name, if you will, is Sildinn Maldero. Pleased to have met...”
The last weapon was pulled out of her and she fell to the wet forest floor with a hard thud.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2004 by Julian Lawler