Here we are at the end of the story! Kudos to you


Arthur walked through the night from the tower, into the morning. His thoughts were suddenly singular after he laid eyes on the lord's maps, as he plotted his path to the place he had been only once, many years ago. He was gripped, with a passion and purpose that he had felt comparatively faintly before. His goal was before him and hell or highwater could not stop him. Through the elements and hamlets he went, driven on by the same unconscious motive that makes a person's heart beat or a fox run.

At the crossroads, by a stream, he stopped.

Perched on the signpost was the boy, kicking his feet.

Arthur felt like he should be surprised but instead he was not; a sudden fatigue descended upon him, and a terrible thirst.

He drank from the stream and slept beneath the little bridge like a mere beast.


When he woke he was unrested but compelled to move on. His companion was watching him, dipping his little toes in the water.

It was easier going in the coolness of the night, and the light of the full moon lit their path in silver.

Few memories, like invisible spiderwebs strung across a path caught in Arthur's mind as they neared it. Distant times, all the more precious for their loneliness.

It was a burial mound, Arthur somehow knew that now. The ring of stone arches, some of which had fallen to the ruin of nature stood silently under the watchful gaze of the stars.

It was a cloudless night.

Hand in hand with Azinwrath, with whom he felt complete, the cold wind tussled the soft curls of the boys' hair.

In the centre of the circle was a great slab of rock.

The boy smiled at Arthur. He put his hands at either side and pulled.

His hands glowed faintly, and inexplicably the stone began to move from the earth.

He was silent, and little by little the ancient piece of masonry was lifted from its resting place.

If Arthur had his wits about him he would have observed that the stone was almost as large as him, and many times wider, and impossible to be lifted by any man, yet here it was being heaved from its spot by an infant.

But he didn't.

Instead he looked at the boy, then dropped obediently into the gloom below.


Arthur thought perhaps he was dead for a moment, before the bright sound like metal filled the hollow chamber. It chimed in a rhythmic, regular fashion.

With a flash, the crypt was lit entirely for but a split second as if with a bolt of lightning: a circular room was revealed for a moment, with statues of figures set in each stone alcove. In the very centre was a plinth, and on it-

The orb.

It cracked apart quite naturally, and from its core a blinding brightness spilled out as Arthur had known in his dreams.

The light died and it gave a deeper glow, illuminating only its immediate surroundings in green.

The boy's face alone could be recognised, his big eyes fixed covetingly on the light. His voice was deep and strange and filled the chamber.

"My brothers and sisters live in cycles, but always the same. We live, we die, we forget ourselves, we live again. I am Azinwrath, or so I am told, and my singular focus has been to find this artefact we created some millennia ago."

Arthur nodded but he didn't understand at all.

"You've been using me."

Arthur felt himself returning to his senses, as though a great mist had cleared in his mind.

"You've been helping me. And you missed having a brother, did you not?"

Arthur's face curled into a frown.

"It's all over now. Surprisingly, you, of all the hundreds along my path, have found it. That which will allow me to live one life forever, as I rightfully deserve. Give it to me now, for I have waited long enough. Break the soul seal."

Arthur moved. The object of his former obsession within his literal grasp. He reached out and touched it. All light went out as Arthur left this world.


"Art?"

There was nothing but blackness, yet he felt far more and the voice he knew.

"Jack?"

His brother. How could he be here? And yet it felt so natural.

"Art… is it night?"

He sounded so young. So familiar. His nose stung.

"Yeah it's night."

"It's so dark Art."

"I know it is."

Tears gathered in his eyes. A presence he thought lost forever was here, with him.

It was his brother, who once was pure and good and so dead.

"Jack? You still there?"

There were many around him and yet it was little Jack that he could perceive the most clearly.

"Yep."

"How do you feel?" he asked hesitantly.

"Sleepy."

"I love you, you know."

"I love you too."

Arthur gasped. He wished his parents could speak to him. He knew they missed him dearly. After he was gone the house was so quiet for so long and it was all he could manage to leave at his first opportunity.

Maybe they could- maybe if he took his brother's hand and-

Another voice called out to him, desperately.

"Arthur!" it cried "Arthur!"

He angrily tried to wipe the wetness from his eyes.

"Who are you?"

But he already knew. It was the boy- not Azinwrath, the original.

"Please, I want to get back to ma, she will miss me."

Arthur said nothing. His head ached with sorrow. Here he had hoped he could bring his lost brother back to the world.

"Are you still there?" the voice pleaded "Help me."

But it couldn't be.

"Quiet! Wait your turn you hear?"

The voice went still, but he knew what really must be done.

Somewhere a mother had lost her son, not to sickness but to the tangles of fate. Here he found himself at one of its knots, where one string leads back to her.

There is a quiet anger in knowing what one wants, but also what must be done.

"Jack?"

He longed to stay forever here with the fragments of people that were gone, with the comfort of his missing brother's words.

"Yeah?"

"I miss you sometimes."

"Why?"

His nose was running and his throat felt thick. He struggled to maintain his voice.

"You want to go down by the stream tomorrow? There are fish-" he couldn't finish.

After a pause Jack returned.

"You think we can catch some?"

"We can catch them all. Every one of them."

"Sounds fun Art."

"Yep," he choked out.

There was so much he wanted to say but couldn't find his voice to do so.

"Art I'm so tired."

His next words took him longer to say.

Maybe he could live here, not living nor dying, just existing in the dark.

But he was needed in the world, unlike Jack who had departed, never to return.

"Art?"

"I know you are. Get some rest Jack."

"See you in the morning Art."

Arthur was crying, but it felt good to. He knew he could never see him again, except in some kind of afterlife. He would go out like a candle, never to return to brighten the life of those around him except for in memory.

"See you in the morning."

And he was gone. Again.

Lost.

He sniffed, and caught his breath.

Arthur wasn't spiritual or a mystic yet he intuitively knew what to do. He reached out for the boy's personality.

"Hey, you."

"Me?"

"Come with me now. Let's bring you back home."

Through a crack of dazzling light they passed, and tumbled back out into the material world, the orb loosely in his hand.

The boy got to his feet but in a whole new manner. He was panicked, and scared in the dark.

"Arthur!" he called.

Arthurs face was wet.

"I'm here."

Only the light of the moon, through the gap in the vaulted ceiling now lit the dull and heavy metal sphere.


They sat in the dark for a moment, reflecting on their journey. Water dripped from the ancient cavern ceiling. There came the sound of horses and a carriage in the distance.

It grew closer.

And closer.

Then.

At the mouth of the gap.

A madman.

The thin lord, hair tangled and messy, face wild with menace, back to fulfil his purpose – no – the smoking green light in his eyes struck fear into Arthur.

It was Azinwrath.

He dropped down into the chamber with unsettling poise for a human.

"Do you know," the fury clear in his deep voice.

"How much effort," he stretched out the lord's arms and the ceiling crumbled apart.

"I have put," the masonry and loose soil tumbled down onto them as Arthur shielded the boy with his body "Into conserving energy?" he thundered.

The entire crypt was destroyed, and in its wake a sunken crater of earth and stone.

Miraculously Arthur and the lost boy had gotten the least of it.

Already the newly possessed lord was stalking his way to higher ground, and so did the two as they scrambled their way out of the ruin, among the debris.

"How many children do you think I have inhabited to this end Arthur? One? Two?"

The formerly quiet child he had known Azinwrath to be was no more, and in his place a pale and terrifying force of destruction in his fully grown host.

Azinwrath didn't even bother to lay a finger on the great stone slabs, as they lifted themselves before his very will.

Arthur suddenly got a worse feeling about it all, though he didn't think it was possible.

He pushed the boy cleanly off his feet where he went rolling to safety down the grassy bank.

"Guess." He prompted, the great rock suspended before him.

"I'm sorry A-"

"Try somewhere around ninety-seven!" and the rock shot towards him, missing only by a foot.

"Azinw-"

"Don't speak my name! Do you know what you have done to me? Sentenced me to?"

Arthur struggled to stand.

"How long I have searched for this artefact? Can you even comprehend? And for what, a single child?"

He sounded desperate for a moment, then returned swiftly to his rage.

"I haven't spoken in a hundred years! Well hear me now! Damnation! Blood and hellfire!"

All the pillars of the stonehenge rose from their graves and rained haphazardly down upon him, where they stuck like javelins in the mud.

"Cursed-! Damn! Blast!"

The air crackled with electricity, forks of green lightning streaking across the sky and blasted the ground, leaving smouldering grass in their wake.

Arthur was hiding behind a pillar yet it appeared Azinwrath was no longer fixated on his personal destruction. Perhaps so long as a child had led him to suffer similar aimless tantrums.

The lord beat his fists and stomped his feet uselessly, but as he did so the very earth shook and was pounded before him.

Arthur looked on powerlessly in a mindless panic as trees cracked before the onslaught and the ground spontaneously erupted.

Gradually, he slowed, until he fell to his knees.

"I'm quite worn out. I hate you, Arthur. Goodbye."

The lord fell to the side and from out him dispersed a pale green spectre, which settled in the night sky like the clouds of the galaxy's nebula.

Wet with sweat, drying in the night air, Arthur was done with everything, for that moment.

He stared up at the stars as he once had from his room with his brother. How little they had changed in the space that he had changed so much. What must it be like for them to watch they millions of events that unfolded every day?

The lord stirred from within the crater, and Arthur just watched him, bleakly.

He looked around confusedly, then plucked the orb from the epicentre of the crater he now found himself in.

"To think I was so taken… and now I have it, it means nothing to me." He looked up at Arthur. "These last weeks I- you see, my brother he-"

He faltered. Explanations seemed pointless now.

The wind blew and the owls called.

"Never mind. I don't really understand it all; but I am sorry I treated you so badly. Come find me later if you would. Right now I just want a loaf of bread and my parakeet."

Arthur nodded blankly and watched him disappear into the night a 4-horse carriage.

He thought of his own brother. He missed him all the more, like a wound that stings all the greater for having been reopened.

Then, by his side, in his brother's clothes, the boy he never knew.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly, and hugged him.

"Me too," Arthur replied, and put his arm around him.

The heavens rotated before them, slow and implacable as ever and – just so steadily – the sky grew lighter as a new day dawned.

The darkest hour is just before the day, and once it starts, it only gets brighter.


THE END

I've always wanted to type "THE END" like that. Thanks for reading; this is the first story I've ever actually written to completion and I'd like to thank (again!) BradyTheJust and Zukafu Chirimoarimoto, without whom I no doubt would have abandoned the pied. You rock and your effort to leave reviews warmed my icy heart. If anyone is reading this in the future (hey) and has any criticism or anything to say at all, let me hear it, esp. if you didn't like how the story resolved. I've got a few stories planed for the moment but not too much similar to this - if you'd like to check them out. Anyway you'll be able to find em on my profile soon. I dunno how to end this now so let's do it email style...

Warmest regards,

Gerard

EDIT: tried to make this mess more comprehensible. It still resolves a little hurriedly, which is something of a shame but I suppose it's better than not resolving at all. Anyhow, take care.